Texas teen making history as youngest ever Black law graduate in US
Haley Taylor Schlitz will graduate from Southern Methodist University
DALLAS (KTVT) — A Texas woman is making history this weekend.
Haley Taylor Schlitz, 19, is graduating from Southern Methodist University this Saturday.
“It’s just it’s too perfect, I’m excited,” Schlitz said. “It feels really real now.”
The North Texas native is making national history.
“This image of this young Black woman in America, in the state of Texas, getting ready to walk across the stage and make history, not as just the youngest Black law graduate in the history of this country, but also as the youngest woman in this country to walk across the stage and get her JD,” father, William Schlitz said.
Haley has been making national headlines since her story was shared through the University, from CNN to the Tamron Hall show.
“It feels really good,” Haley said. “Not only does it feel good to be recognized for the accomplishment, but it also feels good to be able to get my story out there. I’m really hoping to inspire anybody who hears my story.”
Haley doesn’t take all the credit for this accomplishment. She credits her family, friends and mentors for all their help.
“I think one of the biggest things that’s kept me inspired is my village. You know, you never get anywhere alone,” Haley said. “My mother is one of my greatest, greatest trees in my whole forest and she’s a huge inspiration, a great supporter, great advisor and literally the actual reason why I’m here.”
Her parents say they couldn’t be more proud as their daughter breaks perceptions around Black woman and men.
“To see her shatter perceptions of what Black students can do and what their full potential is,” William said, “I think it’s a very powerful statement she’s making.”
Schlitz said she didn’t always want to go to law school.
“I just kind of did some looking back at my own journey, what I had gone through and how I can really use that to make the education system better for students that are coming after me,” she said. “So I switched my major to education got my undergrad degree in education and then I went to law school to be able to write policy on education.”
Her journey included a lot of “nos.”
“There was a lot of people trying to tell me ‘no’ in public school and all throughout my journey, but that was definitely something I faced in public school. I wasn’t able to test for talented programs, [faced] constant acts of racism, and micro aggressions, and it was just a lot,” Schlitz said.
That’s when her parents stepped in and she started home school instead of public school.
“When school wasn’t working I just realized we had to go a different direction so she is the one that has been driving us, and growing us as parents,” Haley’s mother, Myiesha Taylor, said.
Fast forward, she graduated from high school at 13 years old, and went to law school around the age of 16. Now, she’s graduating from SMU’s Dedman Law School.
“I think we both in awe like, ‘wow this is really happening.’ She’s doing this, it’s crazy,” William said.
“Just excited, proud,” Taylor said. “She’s a phenomenal woman and I’m so excited for her future.”
Haley has a message for anyone younger than her who may hear her story.
“Anybody who’s listening to me, but particularly students of color and girls, know that you should eat ‘nos’ for breakfast, don’t let other people tell you how you should build your path. Don’t let other people tell you what you can and can’t do.”
Next, she has to prepare for the bar exam in July. Further down the line, she said she wants to go into educational policies, whether it’s working with a non-profit organization or an elected official. Or, she may go into teaching. The opportunities are endless for her.
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