Student Earns Top Honor in Diversity Writing Competition

A UCLA School of Law student has won $5,000 20170807 JenniferJonesin the Law School Admission Council’s 2017 Diversity Writing Competition for her essay on how pipeline programs that target underrepresented students are essential to the legal profession.

Jennifer Jones ’19, who will be a second-year student at UCLA Law this fall, earned the honor for her essay “Black Youth and the Future of the Legal Profession.” There, she discussed the ways in which the justice system disparately impacts members of the African American community; how students from underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds can connect their personal experiences to meaningful work that effects change; and the positive impact that law school diversity has beyond the classroom.

Her essay was one of three winners selected by a panel of 14 judges who anonymously graded entries by students from 31 law schools across the country. 

“This essay seemed like the perfect opportunity to not only synthesize my past work experience with what I have learned in law school, but also to change the narrative around access to law schools for people of color,” says Jones, who holds a B.A. from UCLA and Master of Social Work from USC. She helped children and young adults in the Los Angeles foster care and juvenile justice systems for five years before she entered UCLA Law.

“When I worked with youth of color in the system, I saw a lot of brilliance and resilience that wasn’t necessarily recognized or appreciated because it didn’t conform to mainstream culture. Many of them were very cognizant of how public policy and public systems intersect to directly impact their lives, access to opportunities, and resources. But I didn’t see a lot of programs that helped them leverage that consciousness to create social change.”

This summer, Jones has been working in Washington, D.C., at the Advancement Project, a leading civil rights organization where her work in community lawyering has focused on issues such as policing, voting rights, immigration and school privatization.

She is enrolled in the David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest and Policy and in the Critical Race Studies program at UCLA Law. She credits her success in this competition to the guidance of Cheryl Harris, the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Professor in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at UCLA Law, and lecturer in law Pavel Wonsowicz, director of the school’s Academic Support Program.

The Diversity Writing Competition is an initiative geared toward promoting diversity and inclusion in the legal profession. It is sponsored by the LSAC, the organization that administers the LSAT and other key services in the law school admission process.