When Sonoma Academy first opened its doors in the fall of 2001, our school was much like the eventual campus on Farmers Lane. The founders had a clear vision to become one of Northern California’s premier college preparatory schools, but had yet to break ground. Organizations such as the Student Leadership Council, Admissions All-Stars, and the Judicial Honor Council did not exist yet. We had no alumni network and there was no reputational value to our school’s name. Our sports teams were undermanned and the basketball team spent its first season practicing on a red concrete basketball court in a middle school gym.
However, these circumstances created an extraordinary opportunity for students and faculty. We were encouraged, if not obligated, to dream big about the school we wanted to create, and then take steps each day to make this vision a reality. And we did. Week by week, month by month, and year by year, we founded student organization and clubs, instituted traditions, and built a lasting culture of learning, leadership, and creativity.
At the end of the summer in 2004, I packed my most important possessions into two large cardboard boxes and flew across the country to continue my educational journey at Columbia University. I left behind my family, close friends, and the small town of 7,000 residents that I had called home for most of my life. But I did not leave everything behind. In addition to those two cardboards boxes, I took with me the entrepreneurial spirit, coupled with the willingness to take concrete action, which had been such substantial parts of my experience at SA. At Columbia, I excelled academically, made life-long friends, and most importantly, pursued my childhood dream of becoming a lawyer.
After graduating from college I attended Columbia Law School. There, I was an editor on the Columbia Journal of Race and Law and captain of the basketball team. After completing my studies at Columbia Law School in 2011, and taking New York’s bar exam (I passed!), I spent two years in New York City working for one of the world’s leading law firms. As a Litigation Associate at the firm, I worked on challenging and cutting-edge cases, including a federal criminal case involving the founders of the world’s three largest online poker companies. In addition, I worked on numerous pro bono matters, including a death row case. My work on that case led me to Birmingham, Alabama, where I interviewed lawyers, jurors, and witnesses, and visited the site of a murder.
In 2013, I left the law firm and began clerking for a judge in a federal court in New York. As a law clerk I have worked on cases involving the Twilight Woods movie saga, the JPMorgan London Whale scandal, and a six-week criminal trial that involved one of the largest frauds in New York City’s history. The work has been challenging and captivating—several of our cases have been written-up in The New York Times.
As I reflect back on my experience at SA, I am filled with gratitude. The pioneering spirit and culture of action that was in our school’s DNA continues to enrich my life. I know that SA will continue to have a similar impact on the lives of its students and I look forward to seeing the positive influence they will have on the world.