2009 Archive

Dressed for Success!

Samika Boyd ’10 Does It Right with Help from Friends and Financial Aid

Samika BoydIt’s springtime in Berkeley—weather that brings out the flip-flops, shorts, and sundresses—but Samika Boyd ’10 wears a navy-blue suit, shiny navy-blue pumps, and pearls. Is she making a presentation, or interviewing? “No,” she says. “I always wear a suit to school.” Her grandmother taught her that if she practices something right, she’ll do it right, she explains. She’s training to be a lawyer, and being comfortable in the uniform is part of that. But there’s a practical reason, too. “It’s easy,” she says, laughing. “Everything’s on one hanger.”

Even having the option to wear a suit to law school shows how far Boyd has come—and the vital importance of Boalt’s generous financial aid. She grew up in poverty in New Orleans. Raised by her mother, a shy and once illiterate woman, Boyd found herself filling out paperwork and sending off the family bills at age 12, and speaking up for her family. “I always had a voice,” she recalls. “I was a little advocate for my mommy, my grandma, my cousins, for people who felt they couldn’t advocate for themselves.”

School was her refuge from the crime, drugs, and hopelessness of her neighborhood. There she learned about Charles Hamilton Houston, Thurgood Marshall, and other African Americans who used the law to change American history. When she graduated as valedictorian, she selected Howard University—her heroes’ alma mater—and earned a tuition scholarship and other assistance (including a scholarship from Wendy’s, the fast-food chain where she worked full-time while in high school). She left New Orleans for the second time—her first time was on the senior class trip—in her life, arriving in Washington, DC in 2001 with “three raggedy suitcases, $75 in my pocket, and an unshakeable dream of being a lawyer.”

She thrived, graduating—summa cum laude—completing a Master’s degree, studying in South Africa, and serving as an intern with Hillary Rodham Clinton. And in DC, Boyd met African-American professionals, including Scharn Robinson, Ph.D. ’98, Assistant US Attorney for the District of Columbia, who helped guide her toward Boalt Hall. “God puts little angels in my life to guide me along the way,” Boyd says of Robinson and others who have supported and mentored her.

Andrea Peterson, who taught Property in Boyd’s first semester at Berkeley, is another of her angels. “As I got to know her, I realized that she wasn’t just smart,” Peterson says of Boyd. “She is unusually eager to get the maximum out of her years in law school. She’s the type of person that Boalt is justifiably proud of.”

Boyd often speaks to young people about the seven Ps that guide her life: prayer, purpose, passion, a plan, preparation, patience, and perseverance. She’ll keep working with kids after graduation. “I want to be a go-to litigator,” she says. “I’m very interested in appellate work. But I have a personal responsibility to reach back and help, because many people have helped me.”

Helping Boalt Hall guarantee a superior law school education to students like Boyd is also making a contribution to the future well-being of society. “When I was asked why I deserved a scholarship,” Boyd explains. “I said it’s not because of what it would do for me. Ultimately, it’s what it would allow me to do for others.”—Fred Sandsmark

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