19-year-old becomes youngest Black student to graduate from Texas law school
Written by Yi-Jin Yu GMA on May 13, 2022
(DALLAS) — Haley Taylor Schlitz made headlines in 2019 after getting accepted into nine law schools. She was just 16 at the time.
Now, after three years of classes, long nights, clerkships and internships – and a pandemic to boot – Taylor Schlitz is ready to step into her next chapter.
The 19-year-old from Keller, Texas, graduates from Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law on Friday and will become the Dallas law school’s youngest Black student to do so, the school confirmed to “Good Morning America.”
“We are incredibly proud of Haley and all she has accomplished during her time at SMU Law School. We know she is going to make a difference in this world, and we can’t wait to see all the wonderful places her career will take her,” SMU Dedman School of Law Professor Jennifer Collins told “GMA” in an emailed statement.
Schlitz told “GMA” it feels surreal to finally be graduating but is ready for her big day.
“It’s just been a lot of buildup and it’s really exciting to take off,” the student said.
She’ll be celebrating this weekend with her family, including her mother, father and siblings before she gets cracking on her bar exam studies next Monday. “My village is a huge part of my motivation to keep going,” Schlitz said.
“My mom has been probably my absolute biggest motivator, my biggest supporter, the person that I look up to the most,” she continued. “She’s an ER doctor and so for the longest time, I wanted to be an ER doctor, but even after wanting to be an attorney, and now going to law school, she’s still somebody that is such a huge life counselor, such a great advisor for me.”
When she stopped by the “GMA” studio three years ago, Schlitz said she wanted to “help other students and fight for equity” and with law school wrapped up, she wants to do just that.
“I absolutely feel that even more strongly now,” Schlitz said. “It’s so much more tangible. I’m so close to actually being able to make that impact that I’ve been talking about … write that legislation, really get active.”
Schlitz, who cited criminal law and torts law as her two favorite law school courses, hopes to work in educational policy or teach. “I have quite a few job offers and right now, it just depends on where I want to be in the country,” she said.
For others searching for their own success, Schlitz said she had one key message for them.
“You don’t find your path. You make it,” she said. “Take life by the reins, by the horns, and just really make what you want your reality.”
She also encouraged people to take advantage of opportunities and not to be afraid to take chances.
“It’s OK to make mistakes,” Schlitz said.
She went on, “Just go back to your foundation and build up again and don’t be confined to boxes or stereotypes or when other people are trying to say whether it’s no or yes. It’s really up to you.”
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