DARNELL REED (Bronx Community College, ’16), now at City College, intends to become an attorney. He was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa, the national community college honor society, and is among 50 students nationwide to win a 2016 Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team Silver Scholarship worth $1,250.
Just a few years ago he was broke, homeless and worried about how to support his son. His parents had lost the family home after a mortgage company stuck them with an unaffordable loan. Then his employer went out of business. “I hit rock bottom, but I would not quit on myself, my son, or life,” Reed says.
Government agencies helped with unemployment insurance, rent support and a connection with Document Technologies Inc., a legal process outsourcing company that placed him in the copy room at the well known law firm Stroock & Stroock & Lavan.
He soon was working directly with support staff, paralegals and attorneys, duplicating materials for litigation. “I received my first taste and desire for the law,” along with encouragement to aim higher. And then he watched President Obama praise community colleges for preparing people for good jobs in a State of the Union address.
And so Reed, born in New York City, raised in the South Bronx, survivor of dead-end jobs, enrolled in the paralegal program at Bronx Community College. He found he was a good student and comfortable with legal work. He also won a Guttman Transfer Scholarship.
City College accepted him into its Skadden, Arps Honors Program in Legal Studies. This partnership with the prominent law firm prepares rising juniors from low-income and underrepresented groups for legal careers with merit scholarships, mentoring opportunities, LSAT preparation and tutoring. This summer he will intern at Skadden, Arps, as well.
Last summer he went to South Africa on a Phi Theta Kappa International Scholarship. Students from around the world “were a think tank on global issues like rhino poaching and the ivory trade. In the back of my mind, I was afraid to mention my school, Bronx, but I found I was very well prepared.”
Reed volunteers at two Bronx nonprofit organizations, Desi’s Soup Kitchen and the Community Basketball Athletic Leadership League (CBALL), feeding the hungry and involving youngsters in athletics while exposing them to career possibilities.
“I’ve been through some stuff, had hardships,” he says. Explaining his desire for public interest law, he adds, “If we had someone looking out for us, our situation probably would have been different.”