2020 Baron Law College Scholarship Winners

Casey M. Glassman

Essay Question: How will you use your law degree to influence change?

My client sat in my office for the first time on a July morning, shy and protected, with her face to her knees, her body hunched to shield herself from her reality. It was six months after her son was sentenced to prison. Her eyes were swollen with tears, her face illuminating anger and defeat.

After her son’s trial, her attorney recommended against an appeal. She plead for additional assistance in appealing the court’s decision—but her voice echoed only as far as her pockets were deep. Living under the poverty line with less than a high school level education, she had exhausted her resources as she knew them. Moreover, her mental health symptoms had escalated so severely that she lacked the cognitive, emotional, and physical capacities for daily living.

That’s what brought her to my office that day: coping with her son’s incarceration. I had the clinical expertise to address her diagnosis, mitigating her symptom severity to a baseline at which she could once again participate in the workforce and contribute to society. While significant on the individual level, these microlevel improvements did not impact the systemic complexities of the numerous, integrated social systems, and ultimately the laws and policies that reinforced the social, economic, and health disparities at play.

While right and wrong may appear to be black and white, my professional experiences have taught me that in the process of developing social policy, that is not the case. There is a greyscale. I have witnessed many of the barriers—from economic and financial to cultural and political—that stall and prevent progress from being achieved.

Despite my successes as a social worker, I recognized that promoting macrolevel change required a distinctive professional platform with a unique and specific set of skills. I believe that a law degree will best equip me with the tools to develop a professional platform that promotes and advocates for social policy change, on both the individual and macrolevel for underserved and underrepresented populations. With a law degree, I will work to influence social policy and the law through work as an appellate and human rights attorney.

Since childhood and to this day, I have always believed in speaking up for what I believe is right—for what is ethical, moral, and just—even, and especially, when no one else is willing to do so. It is this powerful adherence to values and outspoken, strong-willed nature that has given rise to my voice for justice. Ultimately, I am passionate about using my voice to represent and protect the rights of individuals who, like my client, are unable to speak directly for themselves.

Lauren Chan

In less than 300 words, please explain what #YOLO means to you and how will you apply it in your undergraduate experience?:

#YOLO the frequented phrase used by my generation to justify a reckless or rash decision such as cliff jumping, sneaking out of the house, or fulfilling one’s craziest stunts. But beneath the laughter and recklessness, those four letters hold significant value and reminds us of the sole life we live, of which we are unaware the duration. You Only Live Once: a powerful reminder that has been reduced to four letters meant to mask the seriousness of its meaning. A reminder to grasp life by the horns; to put your desires above your fears. But to overcome one’s fear can appear more daunting than the reward and so the creation of #YOLO arose. #YOLO fabricates a nonchalant feeling that empowers us to face that risk and overcome that barrier, while reminding us that we may never get another chance to do so, so what better time than the present?

#YOLO reminds me to pursue my passions no matter how varied or outlandish they may be. It empowers me to apply for that research position I may feel under-qualified for, or to join the volunteer group that chooses to spend their Saturday mornings on a farm to provide fresh produce for the food banks in the greater Cleveland area. It empowers me to learn Mandarin, a language that I had admired for many years but never had the opportunity to fully pursue. It motivates me to be outgoing and contributing to discussions whether about the latest Russian literature or new development in science. I will be all these things and more because I do only have one life and intend to live it to the fullest, especially in college when there are a variety of experiences and opportunities open for the taking, and what better time than the present.