I’m a Proud Veteran Who Celebrates Her Non-Traditional Path to Law School
By Lihán Harris
Single Parent, Army Veteran, First-Gen College Senior, and Aspiring Law Student
Fayetteville State University
My name is Lihán Harris. I’m the single parent of a beautiful little girl, a Hispanic immigrant, a U.S. Army veteran, and a first-generation college senior.
And I will be a lawyer.
To say that my path to law school has been a non-traditional journey is an understatement. I’ve encountered many challenges and overcome numerous obstacles.
I moved from Puerto Rico to California when I turned 18. I thought I was all grown up and ready to take on the world! I enrolled in college, but after earning almost three years of credits toward a Bachelor of Arts in Education, I accepted the fact that I simply wasn’t ready. The culture shock was extreme. I quit college, worked full-time as a tutor and teacher’s assistant, and took some time to consider my options. Recognizing that I needed structure in my life until my path forward became clear, I enlisted in the U.S. Army.
Joining the Army was one of the best decisions I will ever make.
I found the structure I needed in the Army. I learned discipline. I overcame physical and mental tests that I never thought I could. I gained confidence. I began to focus on my future. And I became determined to achieve success.
After separating from the Army, I became a single parent with no village of support. Digging deep for the focus and self-assessment skills I learned in the Army, I made another life-altering decision. I researched and found a college that would allow me to continue to earn my undergraduate degree from home while being a full-time mother to my daughter. In 2020, after a decade away from college, I enrolled in Fayetteville State University to complete my degree.
I remember how intimidated I felt on my first day back. I was so worried about not being able to catch up with all the new teaching methods. I also worried about not being able to balance being a single parent with being a full-time student. But my desire to complete my education was stronger than my fears.
Coming back to school has been a hugely rewarding experience that has taken my self-confidence to another level. I am now a senior with a 4.0 GPA. I’m vice president of the Pre-Law Society, director of Diversity and Inclusion for the student government association, and a member of the Alpha Phi Sigma Criminal Justice Honor Society, National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice, Pre-Law Scholar’s Program, and the Tau Sigma National Honor Society for transfer students. I am also part of the Chancellor’s list, Hispanic Club, and Campus Ministry. I serve as a volunteer at Manna Church Dream Center in Fayetteville. And I’m a new member of the Law School Admission Council Student Advisory Group.
Today I am convinced that not even the sky is the limit. My journey has shown me that I have the discipline, commitment, and determination to accomplish anything I set my mind to. I have grown as a student, as a woman, and as a leader. My path has given me great personal satisfaction. The long days and sleepless nights are worth it when I look at how much I have gained.
Perhaps most importantly, my journey will enable me to teach my daughter that our goals and dreams have no expiration date. I want my daughter to know that no matter how long it takes – or how many times we start over – we can accomplish anything we work hard enough to achieve.
My path forward is now clear. After I complete my undergraduate education, I will once again call upon my courage and determination to pursue a law degree. As a single parent, Hispanic woman, and a veteran, I want to inspire women of all backgrounds to never give up and to set ambitious goals and high standards for themselves and their families.
When I graduate from law school, I will leverage my law degree to make a difference in the U.S. criminal justice system. I look forward to becoming a lawyer who contributes to the societal change that is desperately needed. Earning a law degree will enable me to provide my daughter with more opportunities, and it will give confidence to other single mothers that they too can achieve what may at first seem impossible.
My journey to becoming a lawyer has been aided significantly by my association with LSAC and the products and programs offered through LawHub. That name is so appropriate. LawHub is the hub of law for anyone wanting to be a lawyer. It’s just been extremely helpful.
This Memorial Day I can’t help but think back to the U.S. Army where my journey began. I think about the many heroes of all races who died fighting for the freedoms I have today … and the fight that I will continue in their memory so that everyone in the U.S. will experience justice equally.
And I smile when I think of the bright future that awaits my daughter and me.
My name is Lihán Harris. I am a single parent. I am Hispanic. I am a U.S. Army veteran. I am a first-generation college senior.
And I will be a lawyer.