A Sense of Belonging
Shahily Negron-Falcon, RWU Law Class of 2021Juris Doctor
The main function of any scholarship, of course, is to help a student remove financial barriers, and bring a legal education within easier reach. But for RWU Law 3L Shahily Negron-Falcon (known to most of her classmates as “Shay”), receiving a 2020 Dominican Bar Association (DBA) Scholarship did much more than that. In many ways, she said, it validated her very presence in the profession.
“The scholarship means so much to me for a number of reasons,” Negron-Falcon explained. The single mother of an eight-year-old son, Negron-Falcon has largely paid for law school herself. “I didn’t apply for any scholarships or grants in my first or second year,” she said. “That had a lot to do with my self-esteem. I didn’t think I was worthy or deserving.”
But, she added, the discipline of law school steadily chipped away at such self-doubts.
“Law school tends to ‘put you out there,” she said. “Not enough people talk about the amazing things that law school actually does for you – or, at least, for me. Yes, law school is hard. It takes you and breaks you down into pieces. But then it took those pieces that it broke and built this amazing, unapologetic advocate that I consider myself [to be] today – and that I hope that I will continue to be for my clients in the future.”
With 12 years under her belt as an administrator at the Manhattan law firm of Kantor Davidoff – reaching back to her days as an undergraduate at Hunter College – Negron-Falcon has developed a front-line familiarity with the power of the law to change lives. She's augmented that knowledge with more than a decade of experience as an advocate with the Crime Victims Treatment Center in New York City, not to mention two law school summers interning with the Committee for Public Counsel Services in New Bedford, Mass.
Another epiphany arrived when Negron-Falcon joined the Dominican Bar Association, a national group describing itself as “an organization of legal professionals and law students, which supports Latino members of the legal profession, particularly attorneys and law students of Dominican ancestry, in their pursuit of higher posts in the legal profession and other facets of influence in the United States.”
“It was when I joined the DBA that I said to myself, ‘Why not? This is a perfect opportunity for you to start growing into this identity that you’ve been suppressing for a while,’” Negron-Falcon said. “Most important is the sense of belonging it gives me.”
And the scholarship?
“It tells me that the DBA believes in me and supports me," she said. "That is priceless. I will continue to break generational barriers proudly and provide my community and clients with zealous representation. The scholarship's message is very clear: I belong here and will stay here!”
Negron-Falcon will be formally presented with her award at the organization’s (virtual) 17th Annual Scholarship Gala on Saturday, September 19, 2020.