Women, Law, & Legal Advocacy Scholarship Blog | November 2014

Nine students received scholarships to attend PLEN’s Women, Law & Legal Advocacy Seminar in Washington, D.C. November 13-15, 2014.

Jeslyn Thompson, PLEN Scholarship Recipient – Sponsored by Valerie Jackson
Junior, Texas A&M University

I came into the PLEN seminar with a list of passions and a desire to link them together to have a fulfilling career. In the seminar session, Moving Between the Public and Private Sectors, Legislative Director for Senator Blunt us to “always be willing to open a door and listen to the opportunities.” Not only did PLEN provide my first experience to visit Washington DC, but in many ways, PLEN was that door to hundreds of other opportunities. Throughout the program, I learned that an infinite number of paths can lead you to the same destination. One does not have to follow success step-by-step to establish herself in a similar career—however, a mentor in her area of interest is invaluable.

Additionally, the panelists encouraged us to find what we wanted professionally and to go for it regardless of the roadblocks we might anticipate. That being said, PLEN gave me the chance to hear from multiple women that law school is not something to tackle unless I was 100% sure. The advice was not discouraging; rather it allowed me to think realistically about my future. I have decided that law school is not the best option for me right now, but it remains on the table of possible ventures in the future. Most importantly, PLEN taught me that life is about relationships; people will remember you if you stay in touch and present yourself as a hard worker.

Aerial Reese, PLEN Scholarship Recipient – Sponsored by Valerie Jackson
Senior, Agnes Scott College

Since my sophomore year in college, I aspired to practice law and influence policy for marginalized communities.  I was frustrated because I had a career goal without a realistically obtainable pathway. I decided that I needed to be in Washington, D.C. to access individuals pursuing careers in policy and legal advocacy. As a senior, I finally decided to attend to program with hopes of exploring careers in law and legal advocacy. PLEN offered me the opportunity of a life time! I was able to network and gain knowledge about legal advocacy careers. PLEN set me up with the knowledge I needed to succeed in what I aspire to accomplish as a future lawyer. I will forever be grateful for receiving the scholarship to attend PLEN, because without it I know that I wouldn’t have received such an amazing experience. I am now more excited about the future, as PLEN opened up many doors, and helped me realize my impending success in making the world a better place for marginalized individuals!

Lanisha Porter, PLEN Scholarship Recipient – Sponsored by Lyn Walker, Esq.
Sophomore, Manhattanville College 

Blog. Lanisha Porter

One of the benefits of attending a small, private college are the opportunities to make direct and strong bonds with your professors. One evening, while running into my Women’s Studies professor, we chatted about my future aspirations. After she learned I was a Political Science and Philosophy major with a minor in Women’s Studies, she encouraged me to consider a women’s leadership conference that took place in D.C.—which I soon learned was PLEN’s Women Law and Legal Advocacy Seminar. After perusing through their website and seeing I would be eligible for a scholarship I hopped right on top of the chance to apply to the seminar to secure a spot. Gratefully, I was rewarded a scholarship to D.C. While there, I had the opportunity to  learn skills critical to advancing my career opportunities—negotiating, résumé-building, networking, branding myself—but underneath all of that one lesson kept repeatedly standing out to me as I listened to the plethora of panels consisting of many professional women…to be yourself and be so unapologetically, especially as a woman. It was my goal to leave Washington on November 15, 2014 with an even stronger conviction, in the words of Helen Reddy, that “if I have to I can do anything; I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman” and indeed I did. Attending this women’s leadership seminar further equipped me with the fundamentals needed to be a change agent and it gave me a platform to engage with other change agents. I was able to embrace the different standpoint theories and unique traits that each woman brought throughout the days of the seminar. Moreover, I was able to put law school in perspective and focus in on the steps I need to take to start preparing for admission to law school, some of what I can expect in my law school career and how to brand myself to be a formidable candidate on my applications.

Ebony Davenport, PLEN Scholarship Recipient – Sponsored by Valerie Jackson
Senior, Wright State University

EbonyWebsitePhotoMy program director forwarded me the information about PLEN a week before the registration deadline. After reading about the program history as well as participant testimonials, I was sold! As a result of the generosity of Valerie Jackson and my university’s Women’s Studies program, I was able to attend the Women, Law & Legal Advocacy Seminar.

The timing could not have been more perfect, as I had already signed up for the December LSAT, and was preparing my law school applications. The resume workshop helped me present my best self on paper before I finalize my applications.The location of the conference was essential to my desire to attend. There really is no better place to learn about the policy-making process than in our nation’s capital. I’m so pleased that I was able to connect with other driven young women from across the country.

PLEN further emphasized the significance of networking and encouraged me to seek out the women I want to be like. I feel more confident in my decision to pursue a legal education. I also left the conference with more confidence in myself; I learned to not second-guess myself and to know that I am qualified. I would definitely suggest this conference to any young woman with an interest in law and public policy.

Laura Douglass, PLEN Scholarship Recipient – Sponsored by Valerie Jackson
Junior, Meredith College

LauraThe PLEN seminar I attended was one of the most incredible experiences of my life–I absolutely loved every minute of it. Being around students who are aware of what is happening in Washington D.C. and have goals for the direction that the country is going was incredible for me. We all had policy issues that we cared about; we all wanted to be a part of changing the scope of these issues. Being in the room with women who are actively involved in the shaping of policy was really inspiring. I loved hearing about their backgrounds and their recommendations on how to eventually sit where they were sitting. I recommend all women–regardless of if they are involved in political science or not–attend a PLEN seminar. It will change your life. I know it changed mine.

 Kai Henderson, PLEN Scholarship Recipient – Sponsored by Valerie Jackson
Graduate Student, University of North Texas

KaiOver the course of the Women, Law & Legal Advocacy Seminar at PLEN, I learned so much about the professional world and most importantly I learned a lot about myself. I knew that I wanted to be a lawyer, but I never considered other professional aspects until I attended PLEN. My greatest takeaway from PLEN was that there are many different pathways to reach a career goal and it is okay if my own pathway deviates from the norm. I learned that it is alright to be afraid of risks, but to never let my fear control my future. PLEN was truly a life changing experience for me and I am very grateful to have been able to attend thanks to my scholarships from Valerie Jackson of K&L Gates and the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at the University of North Texas. In three short days, I have learned skills to become a better leader, networker, and negotiator. PLEN has ultimately taught me to trust myself and believe in my future potential. 



Yasmina Antcliff, PLEN Scholarship Recipient – Sponsored by Valerie Jackson
Senior, University of Minnesota, Duluth

Blog PhotoAll my life I’ve been inspired to be a part of a greater community that fights for social justice. Prior to attending the PLEN conference on “Women Law & Legal Advocacy” I was unsure as to whether or not I ought to apply for law school. I was really able to benefit from the advice provided by women that had experience in policy-making. Before this experience, I was under the impression that the only way to accomplish my goals was to earn a Juris Doctor. Now, I’ve learned differently and was able to discover other avenues to accomplish my goals. I am now convinced that the best route for me to take would be to work on a master’s degree in public policy instead. I really benefited from the sessions that focused on information that directly affects women in the workplace, like salary negotiation and the gender pay gap. In the resume workshop, I was able to get tips and strategies that will really help make my resume stand out. I think the most important part of my PLEN experience, and the one that will affect my life in the long-rung, is how much more confident I feel about my ability to effect social change. Speaking to women that have actually succeeded in carving out careers for themselves in such a male-dominated field, really gave me the extra courage I needed to make progress in achieving my own goals. I am truly inspired and thankful for having the opportunity to participate in such an incredible program!

Baillee Brown, PLEN Scholarship Recipient – Sponsored by Valerie Jackson
Senior, Occidental College

Blog. Baillee BrownThanks to one of my favorite professors, I heard about PLEN and thought a seminar could be a great introduction to post-graduate life in Washington D.C. To my delight, I learned much more than the bare basics of navigating the D.C. metro system. I met several inspiring women who held similar convictions as I do about the positive impacts that policy can have on people’s lives. Throughout the weekend, I sought to absorb as much wisdom as I could, but was confronted mixed advice that did not seem to lead me in a solid direction. I left the conference feeling empowered to do whatever I want after I graduate since so many other women before me did not follow one set path. As long as I remain proactive in reaching my goals and continue to collaborate with other driven women, I believe I will achieve my goals. Special thank you to Valerie Jackson from K&L Gates who provided the scholarship that allowed me to attend this transformative seminar.

Kiana Knolland, PLEN Scholarship Recipient – Sponsored by Valerie Jackson
Sophomore, Howard University 

Kiana PostAs a young girl, I was keenly focused on my future; this was evident when I determined that I wanted to be an attorney in the third grade. Since making that decision, I have tried to live a lifestyle which reflects my future aspirations. As I’ve grown older, I’ve participated in countless programs for aspiring attorneys; however, never have I participated in a gender specific program. Hillary Clinton said it best, when she stated, “There cannot be true democracy unless women’s voices are heard. There cannot be true democracy unless women are given the opportunity to take responsibility for their own lives. There cannot be true democracy unless all citizens are able to participate fully in the lives of their country.”

My time spent at PLEN was beyond extraordinary and absolutely necessary. I was surrounded by the nation’s best and brightest young women. I loved learning about all of the career options available through the legal system as it relates to Public Policy. I was truly inspired by the barrier breaking women panelists. Each of the women were incredibly driven, ambitious, intelligent and well-rounded. Someone once told me: “You can’t be  what you can’t see.” As a PLEN participant, I saw women thriving everywhere including the US Capitol, government relations firms, the White House, and the Supreme Court. The most valuable lesson that I learned is the importance of unapologetically and authentically being myself. I possess natural qualities, talents, and strengths that will allow me to live a life filled with purpose. I am incredibly grateful for this wonderful opportunity, and I look forward to pursuing a career in the legal field.