Funk & Associates is pleased to announce that the winner of the Fall 2019 Funk Law Student Scholarship is Kimberly Noe-Lehenbauer from the University of Oklahoma College of Law in Norman, OK. Her amazing essay describing her path to law school can be found below.
I am a second-year student at the University of Oklahoma College of Law, and I write today to apply for your annual Legal Scholarship. I came to law school after finishing my bachelor’s degree at the age of 39, a first-generation college graduate. Over the course of building a career the hard way, without a degree, I lived alongside amazing people who lacked the knowledge or confidence to advocate for themselves. They struggled. As a single mother for ten years, I struggled. So I came to law school to develop the means to affect change for disadvantaged and marginalized people through human rights and constitutional litigation.
Before law school, I built a 20-year career in journalism where I cultivated valuable skills and life lessons that inform my worldview and will contribute to my practice as a litigator. I got into community journalism to serve and protect democracy, which I still believe it has the power to do. By the end of those two decades, I had learned to research deeply, to think critically, to negotiate, to speak truth to power, and to write for all audiences, from the classroom to the boardroom. Along the way, I served on community boards and committees, Arts Councils, Strategic Planning Committees, charity campaigns, tutoring high school students, church outreach. The project I am most proud of having contributed to is Loveworks Leadership, an after-school program for at-risk middle school students that teaches them to expect more of themselves and each other, to lead and create with abandon, and to break out of the risks and patterns that threaten to rob so many of potential at that age. The work of community journalism and community service is essential, which is why I felt a responsibility to go further with the strengths and skills I possessed.
I also carried my history of community service into law school, as leader of Phi Alpha Delta’s community service committee, and in support of the Organization for the Advancement of Women in Law, Black Law Students Association, American Civil Liberties Union, and others. This year, I am working to revive the mission of Lawyers Against Human Trafficking, driving awareness and providing pro-bono opportunities for student members. My hope is that each student with whom we interact takes these experiences into practice, whether in public interest law or as pro bono investments in fighting this epidemic. I also volunteered with the Victim’s Advocacy Program, assisting victims of domestic violence in filing protective orders, and at Legal Aid pro se clinics. Last summer, I accepted an internship with Legal Aid, where I offered support and legal help to clients who did not possess the means to access the court system or navigate its complexity on their own. Next semester, I will participate in the criminal defense and international human rights clinics at OU, where I hope to develop the skills to help people trapped in systemic oppression in more and greater forums.
These experiences have been the most fulfilling of my life, confirming the calling that brought me here.
Thank you for your time and consideration. The long and winding road I have taken to this moment, and the many things I have learned along the way, have made me a more mindful person and a fierce advocate. These are lessons I carry with me always. They inform what I say, think, and do, and they will contribute, not only to the diversity of the legal profession, but to the perspective living diversity brings.