Winning Essay by Sophie H., University of Pennsylvania
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Around the city of Atlanta and within its world of lawyers, Nekia Hackworth Jones is regarded as a driven lawyer who consistently puts forth exemplary work. A graduate of both Emory University and Harvard Law School, Mrs. Jones has worked in the United States Department of Justice, served as an Assistant U.S Attorney in the Atlanta U.S Attorney’s Office and is currently a partner at prominent Atlanta law firm Nelson, Mullins, Riley and Scarborough — all positions an aspiring lawyer like myself dreams of one day attaining. And although her work in the legal field is by all standards exceptional, it is her role as a mentor that places her on such a high pedestal in my eyes.

May 30, 2018. On my first day as an intern in the Atlanta Bar Association’s Summer Law Internship Program, I was practically overflowing with nervous excitement. I had no idea what to expect from the program and not a single face among the large crowd of about 60 people appeared familiar to me. But amidst all of my nervousness, the woman who immediately set me at ease with her easy smile, was Nekia Hackworth Jones. It was her down-to-earth demeanor and joking tone that elicited my first laugh of the day and allowed me to relax in my seat. As she recounted to the large group of interns the story of her own involvement in the program and her role as a SLIP alumnus, I was immediately drawn to her.

It took me a while to summon the courage to speak to her directly but, when I finally did, I couldn’t remember why I had ever been nervous. This highly educated woman who had accomplished so much never once spoke to me in a condescending manner. From my mundane questions about which MARTA train route to take from my courthouse internship to the location of the weekly intern meetings, to my more personal questions about her experiences in undergraduate and law school and within her career, Mrs. Jones always made me feel like her equal.

My participation in the Summer Law Internship Program strengthened my vision for my future and was, unequivocally, the most valuable learning experience of my educational career. However, the person that had the largest impact on me, the one who made my experience what it was, was Nekia Hackworth Jones. It was, and continues to be, surreal to me that she was once in my shoes and is now where I plan to be: a successful, confident attorney. Through Mrs. Jones, I can truly see what hard work and determination can yield and what it means to support those who are now where you once were. It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And, when it comes to the amazing Nekia Hackworth Jones, I don’t have even the slightest hesitation in admitting that she is the woman I look to as a template of excellence, the woman I aspire to be.

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