Scholar Spotlight: Diontre Davis
Diontre Davis’ journey to an education abroad experience at St. Anne’s College at the University of Oxford began in grade school.
At Pleasant Hill Academy in Cincinnati, Ohio, Diontre’s 6th grade teacher, Ms. Terrell, encouraged him to apply to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion Young Scholars Program (YSP). The Young Scholars Program provides an opportunity for academically talented, first-generation minority students with high financial need to advance their goal of pursuing higher education. Scholars in good academic standing receive a robust financial aid package to The Ohio State University consisting of federal and state grants, work-study, and the Young Scholars Award. “I went through the interview process, and I got accepted. Later on, I realized just how important YSP was, being a first-generation minority college student.”
Diontre admits that he probably would have gone to college, but without YSP, he wouldn’t have been a Buckeye. Having the YSP scholarship and coming to Ohio State was, he also admits, life-changing. “I can’t even imagine how my life would be if I didn’t have YSP. I wouldn’t have the opportunity to study abroad or participate in extracurricular activities, and I definitely wouldn’t have the opportunity to accomplish the goals I have for the future.”
Curious to expand his view of the world, in high school, Diontre explored education abroad programs but didn’t have the funds to participate once he had been accepted. And the focus of those applications changed along the way. In high school, Diontre wanted to study abroad for science credits, but once he started taking chemistry and physics classes, he realized that science wasn’t what he was interested in. In his junior year of high school, Diontre started taking government AP classes: “I loved learning about the law; it allows me to look back into the past, learn from it, and develop new solutions to current societal and political issues.”
Once accepted into Ohio State, Diontre knew that he wanted to become an attorney. He is majoring in African and African American Studies and minoring in Political Science: “I ended up on that path because I wanted to study something that I generally enjoyed. To me, I need to understand who I am as an African descendant and the historical impact of Black people, not just in America, but across the globe. This is information that I just I didn’t learn in high school.”
Still, Diontre was looking for an education abroad experience. Being a Young Scholar, the experience was especially important because, he says, students can come from low-income neighborhoods and public schools that don’t encourage or inform them about how an education abroad experience is meant to open their world view. When an education abroad experience was mentioned, he continues, a reoccurring problem was often the expenses of the trip.
While looking on the pre-law education abroad page, Diontre came across the U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, a grant program meant to specifically assist people who don’t have the financial support to study abroad. And Diontre had found the perfect use for that scholarship: to participate in The Oxford University Pre-Law Program, which offers students the unique opportunity to study with faculty from both the University of Oxford in England and The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.
Over the course of five weeks, Kimberly Jordan, a law professor from Ohio State, taught the ins and outs of the assignments/reading materials for students in law school. Diontre states he also gained a more in-depth look into the U.S. and England legal system and went over case briefs and memorandums in Professor Jordan’s class. He and the rest of the undergraduate students performed mock trials sessions with each student playing a different role (prosecutor, judge, defense attorney, a client, or a witness).
Diontre’s class was also taught by a barrister, an attorney practicing in the higher courts of England, Christopher Whelan. The classes taught by Dr. Whelan made the students go through a series of dilemmas that challenged the way they think when morals and the law in a case are in direct opposition. Diontre points out that lawyers might have to do cases that represent clients they don’t like. “We had one student say that as a lawyer, he will have to turn off how he feels about the situation, and you have another person saying he wouldn’t try to take on cases where he’d have to erase his personal feelings.”
Diontre also learned more about England and traveled to Edinburgh, Scotland, the Houses of Parliament, and Windsor Castle. “I don’t know how to describe Windsor Castle; it’s so amazing going inside to see a place where the English royal family stayed for past generations. The castle held centuries old rooms, paintings, sculptures, and even gold.”
Once the trip was over and he was back in the United States, Diontre was able to reflect on his experience. “It changed my perspective of the world. Growing up in the U.S., most people are focused on what happens in our country. It’s eye-opening to see what goes on in the world, like with the situation with Brexit. We went to lectures and heard first-hand what people thought about it.”
As part of the requirements of the Gilman International Scholarship, recipients create a Follow-on Service Project. For his service project, Diontre wants to inform his fellow Young Scholars about how education abroad will help them find themselves and what they are passionate about: “The Gilman Scholarship and the YSP Scholarship correlate so much. Both scholarships benefit people who are first-generation minority college students.” In researching the scholarship, Diontre found that the statistics of Gilman scholars from 2016-2017 shows 46% of Gilman Scholars were first-generation college students. The Gilman Scholarship also diversifies the number of underrepresented students who study abroad. Nationally, only 5% of African Americans study abroad, but for Gilman Scholars, that number is 19%. For Hispanics, only 9% study abroad, however the percentage of Gilman Scholars who are Hispanic is 24%. The total percentage of Asian or from the Pacific Islands who studied abroad was 8%, while Gilman scholars of this same demographic were 17%.
Now a senior at Ohio State, Diontre is beginning to plan his next steps. If he wants to attend law school after graduation, Diontre would have to take the LSAT, get recommendation letters, and start applying immediately. At first, Diontre wanted to go straight through but is now thinking of taking time off because of the cost and to allow for more work and world experience. Through the Gilman Scholarship, after he completes the Follow-on Service Project, he can apply for government jobs in Washington D.C., and as long as he meets the position requirements, his application will be given preference.
In addition to possible jobs in Washington, D.C., Diontre is applying to WAIP, the Washington Academic Internship Program in the John Glenn College of Public Affairs, either in the spring of his senior year at Ohio State. “I know a lot of people in YSP have done it, those who are also seeking to become attorneys, and they have all given me positive feedback.”
After a little more work experience, Diontre will turn begin applying to law school. Schools under consideration are Ohio State, the University of Cincinnati, and Loyola in New Orleans, which is well-known for its graduates who work in government or public service. He also is interested in Howard University: “Howard is not as high-ranked as the top law schools in the country, but it is definitely a well-known great school. A lot of attorneys of color have come out of Howard who have made a difference in society.”
And making a difference as a lawyer is very important to Diontre: “My belief about attorneys is that they are someone who offers a public service to those who are underrepresented. I have an interest in practicing law in civil rights, human rights attorney, criminal defense, or a labor and employment.”
For more information on ODI’s ACCESS Collaborative Program, please click HERE.
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