Young Minds in Law and Leadership
By Lyn Tolan | February 28, 2023
Young people bound for careers in law and justice spoke at the Supreme Court of Ohio today about the experiences that sparked their interest in a legal career, their dreams, and the determination to achieve.
Imokhai Okolo is an attorney at a global law firm in Cleveland. He spoke to the justices of the Supreme Court and 8th graders from Bexley Middle School attending the program Opening Doors to Careers in Law.
"Know that you are powerful beyond measure and capable of achieving any dream you put your mind to," he told the packed courtroom.
Okolo saw his first lawyer on a TV show. Sparked by the drama, he set his sights on looking the part. It was a high school principal who told him about the Law & Leadership Institute (LLI), which helped him understand the legal profession and prepared him to succeed in college.
The LLI inspires and prepares young people from underserved communities to consider legal professions. Participants, primarily from the urban areas of Ohio, receive academic support, skills development, and mentoring throughout their high school years. The goal is to raise interest and prepare young people for careers in law and justice.
The Ohio program began in 2008 as a pilot project of the Supreme Court in partnership with federal courts in Ohio, Ohio law schools, the Ohio State Bar Foundation, and the metropolitan bar associations.
"100% of the students who complete our program graduate high school. Considering Ohio ties for the second lowest graduation rate for black high school students in the country with a rate of 69%, our students are indeed history makers," said Heather Creed, LLI executive director.
Okolo's four years in the LLI program gave him an opportunity to spend time with attorneys in his hometown of Akron, participate in mock trial, and sharpen his skills to attend Miami University. He credits college with exposing him to social justice movements and his passion grew. Today, he practices business law and dedicates time to pro bono representation.
"Our communities need people who are willing to dedicate their time, talents, and treasures to break generational curses and destroy systems that harm communities because of bias and prejudice," said Okolo.
The audience also heard from a high school sophomore and a college graduate bound for law school, who shared their experiences.
Chief Justice Sharon L. Kennedy acknowledged the success of so many committed participants, "Thank you to all of the teachers who are helping students to develop critical thinking and leadership skills and are helping to foster dreams of hope - with education comes the possibility not just to dream, but to achieve those dreams as well."
Applications are now open for the Law & Leadership Institute's program that begins this coming summer. For more information, visit https://www.lawandleadership.org/apply.