Hi all. I posted my first draft a couple weeks back http://www.top-law-schools.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=278785 and have taken the advice into consideration and came up with this. I still need to trim a little bit of it but I tried to incorporate more of myself into the essay rather than making it almost exclusively about someone else. Any advice or constructive criticism is welcome!
I was 14 years old when I met Veronica in 9th grade English class. We were partnered together on a project for Animal Farm and quickly bonded over a shared passion of dystopian literature. Although she often skipped school, we’d meet at the coffee cart before school and discuss the issues of the day. One memorable exchange began with a rant about the injustice I suffered in the form of a poor exam grade. When I denounced it as unfair, she responded with “Who ever told you that life was fair?” I pointed out the pessimism in her response and could feel the eye roll I received in return. “I’m not pessimistic, I’m realistic. I just had to face reality a little sooner than you did.”
I later came to understand the meaning of her cryptic statement. When Veronica’s mother passed away, her father turned his anger towards her, lashing out both verbally and physically. I begged her to report it, if not to the police then the school. She was adamantly opposed to outside involvement and warned me not to intervene or it would cost me her friendship.
I was convinced that the only way for her situation to improve was if she actually got the help she deserved, even if she would never admit it. That is how I soon found myself in front of the guidance office, trying to muster the nerve to knock while wrestling with the question of whether it was my place to be there. I would like to say that I knocked on the office door and revealed everything I knew, leading to a reconciliation between Veronica and her father and something resembling a happy ending. That wasn’t the case. I didn’t have many friends at the time and did not want to put my friendship in jeopardy, regardless of the cause. I walked away that day because I thought it would preserve our friendship.
I didn’t see Veronica much after that. Her attendance at school grew sparser and I transferred schools soon afterwards. We lost touch and I never told her how close I had come to reporting what she had told me. The following year, I received word that Veronica withdrew from our school and I was never able to get a straight answer on where she went.
Veronica’s time in my life was brief but reinforced a number of ideals in which I believe strongly. No one who is suffering should be left without someone to advocate for them, especially a child that is unable to defend oneself. I don’t know whether deciding to knock on that door ultimately would’ve made a positive difference in her case and it is a hypothetical I have reflected on many times since that day. I resolved to never let my personal feelings overwhelm me to the point that I refused to do the right thing.
Several years later, I joined the (College) Honor Council. My role as a member of the University Hearing Board and Appeals Committee is to give students who come before us an opportunity to offer their perspective without judgment and to make an informed decision on that basis. My primary objective in these proceedings has been to ensure that no single actor is left without a voice. In my sophomore year, I served on an academic integrity panel that involved a soon to be graduating senior with a strong academic record. The case unsettled me initially. Why would someone recently accepted to a prestigious postgraduate institution risk that opportunity over a minor assignment? During the hearing, I judged the evidence to be on shaky ground at best but my peers disagreed. The possibility of suspension and even expulsion was raised. At that point I felt compelled to speak up.
We deliberated for nearly four hours going back and forth from one extreme to another. I believed there was sufficient doubt to warrant ruling out the penalties my peers had proposed. I recalled my experiences with Veronica, who didn’t have anyone to speak for her. I did not want to ruin somebody’s academic career and possibly his life trajectory over a violation that may not have even occurred. After sharing my perspective, enough of my peers were convinced that such a severe punishment would be inappropriate and ultimately that outcome was avoided. As with most cases, I never found out whether my assessment was correct but I thought it critical to offer him a fair chance. The price of not examining all sides to a story could have been the end of his academic career. The core message I have taken from these experiences is the importance of speaking up when another voice is discarded or ignored.
While I can’t do anything to change the past, I strive to incorporate the lessons I have learned into my everyday life. Over the years, I have worked with students, as a tutor, paraprofessional, and board member to guide them professionally and personally. I have learned that advocacy does not begin and end at life-changing moments. It’s not about a knock on the door or deliberations in a board room but every decision from school projects to coffee runs that matters when it comes to speaking out. That is why I try to remind myself of the bigger picture. As a wise young woman once told me, the reality of life is often unfair but that doesn’t mean your path is set in stone. I can only hope that I am able to positively impact someone’s life in the way that Veronica did mine. As a naïve fourteen year old, I didn’t have the strength to speak up on behalf of someone who needed it. Five years later, I found my voice and I firmly intend to keep using it.
(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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