Daily Archives: July 5, 2017

WMU-Cooley ReNita Antoine Makes Law and Leadership Life Priority

The youngest of eight, and a first-generation college graduate and first lawyer in her family, ReNita Antoine has always had a desire to help those who cannot help themselves and be the change people want to see. In high school, she participated in the YMCA’s Youth and Government program, drafting a bill and competing against students in her hometown of Houston, then against students around Texas.

“It was then I realized I could make laws that would affect the entire state,” she says. “I knew getting a law degree would give me a better understanding of how the law works and a ticket to help those who have become victim to unfair, unequal, treatment.”

Antoine earned her undergrad degree in Criminal Justice from Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. As a student, she was heavily involved on campus and in the community; she was initiated into the Eta Psi Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority; and interned at the Jefferson County District Attorney’s office.

“I wanted to get an understanding of how the criminal justice system works and why so many individuals fall victim to the luring nature of crime,” she says. “The misfortune that plagues individuals almost forces them to experience the system and in turn creates a cyclical effect on the generations to follow. Fortunately, with hard work and commitment, this generational chain can be broken.”

After working as a clerk/receptionist at a Houston firm, and as a co-producer for a local TV show, “Truth & Justice with Vivian King,” Antoine headed to the WMU-Cooley Law School campus in Lansing.

“WMU-Cooley has some of the most knowledgeable, experienced, and engaging professors, who have practical experience coupled with the theory of the law,” she says. “The professors have an open-door policy which allows students to have candid conversations about the law. They are truly there for students. I developed lasting relationships with some professors that will extend beyond law school.”

While in law school, Antoine competed in the National Black Law Student Association Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial Competition, that she believes prepared her for an 11-week internship with the Prosecutors Attorney Association of Michigan (PAAM) in southwest Michigan’s Berrien County.

“I believe this competition is one of the best mock trial competitions in the world,” she says. “It challenges you to think quickly on your feet, make sound arguments, and hone your public speaking skills.”

At PAAM, where her internship involved working as an assistant prosecutor, Antoine counseled with individuals to provide them with appropriate charges and negotiated with defense attorneys for plea deals.

“I received actual trial experience and was exposed to the daily workings of a prosecutor’s office,” she says.

In addition to her studies, she served as the head representative for the WMU-Cooley-Lansing campus for Barbri Inc., a bar preparation company that has been helping students for five decades. She also worked as a data specialist for the State Court Administrative Office Trial Court Services Division, traveling throughout Michigan to collect data for the Swift and Sure Sanctions Probation Program (SSSPP) — a program that targets high-risk felony offenders with a history of probation violations or failures.

“I saw first-hand how someone who would otherwise serve a lengthy prison sentence earns a second chance for a new life,” she says. “I found this position enlightening. I could see how this program worked. Sometimes, all one ever needs is a second chance and this program affords them that opportunity.”

Outside of school, Antoine volunteered with the Building Child and Family Initiatives – MAGIC of Reading Program (MOR), helping children in grades K – 6 hone their reading comprehension skills.

“I thoroughly enjoyed working with this program,” she says. “MOR allowed me to be an active participant in the Lansing community and work with the future generation of leaders.”

In her final semester at WMU-Cooley Law, Antoine externed with the Resolution Services Center of Central Michigan (RSCCM) in Lansing. She observed civil and domestic mediations, co-mediated small claims disputes, and conducted intake interviews.

“I believe mediation is one of the best ways to resolve a case, and it allows parties to come to an agreement on their own,” she says. “Equally important, mediation is more economically feasible than a trial, which is good for the judicial system.”

At WMU-Cooley’s honors convocation, Antoine was honored with the Leadership Achievement Award.

Associate Dean Michael McDaniel presents WMU-Cooley student ReNita Antoine with Leadership Award

Associate Dean Michael McDaniel presents WMU-Cooley student ReNita Antoine with Leadership Award

“It was unexpected, yet welcomed and appreciated,” she says. “I was just doing what I was supposed to do, leading. I was not expecting to be awarded for my passion of service. When I took on duties and responsibilities, I did what was right for the student body. So, to be honored with this achievement was a blessing.”

She received further kudos in being awarded the Otis M. Smith scholarship at the 20th Annual Davis-Dunnings Bar Association Otis M. Smith Scholarship Banquet.

Davis-Dunnings Bar Association President and WMU-Cooley graduate Takura Nyamfukudza presents WMU-Cooley student ReNita Antoine with Scholarship Award

Davis-Dunnings Bar Association President and WMU-Cooley graduate Takura Nyamfukudza presents WMU-Cooley student ReNita Antoine with Scholarship Award

The Houston native is taking the Texas bar exam this upcoming July and plans to return to her hometown. Interested in bankruptcy law, estate planning, negotiation/mediation, and politics, she plans to advocate for clients and her community on a local and national level.

This article about WMU-Cooley graduate ReNita Antoine was written by Legal News writer Sheila Pursglove originally published by the Legal News on June 28, 2017. It is reprinted here with permission of The Detroit Legal News. 

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Valerie Smith: Law School Teaches Law and Life Lessons

“I wanted to go to law school as long as I can remember,” recalled WMU-Cooley law student Valerie Smith. Yet it wasn’t until the single mother of three got the go ahead from her children that she had the courage to pursue her dream.

“I remember coming home one day from my job as a paralegal,” said Smith. “I remember being frustrated. I was 40-years-old. A single mother of two daughters and a son. I was struggling to pay bills, even though I was working very, very hard.

“My kids sat me down to talk. They reminded me of my dream of going to law school and becoming an attorney. My oldest daughter said, ‘Mom, it’s never too late, and you’re never too old.'”

That was it. Smith took the LSAT, then applied and was accepted to WMU-Cooley Law School.

“That day changed my life forever,” declared Smith.

WMU-Cooley student Valerie Smith

Advocate for Other People

“I will never forget the day I was accepted to WMU-Cooley Law School,” exclaimed Smith. “I had been really busy because I had just moved, and hadn’t checked my e-mail for several days. During a break at work though, I decided I would take a look. I saw an email from WMU-Cooley Law School congratulating me on my seat! I started screaming in my office and one of the attorneys came running over to me and said, ‘Valerie, are you alright?’ And I said, ‘Yes!’ as I burst into tears. ‘This is one of the happiest moments of my life. I just got accepted to law school, counselor!’ And he said, ‘Well, congratulations, future counselor!'”

Since starting law school, Smith confesses that she has learned as much about life and herself as she has about the law.

“My first day at WMU-Cooley,” recalled Smith, “the professors told our class that attorneys have others’ lives in their hands – just like a doctor does with our physical well-being, an attorney has others’ lives in our hands – maybe not physically or medically, but financially, emotionally, mentally, situationally, and legally. It is a huge responsibility. We need to be their advocates.”

Smith says she has never forgotten that lesson. She comes to class every day prepared and ready to be another’s true advocate.

“I value my legal education here at WMU-Cooley,” stated Smith. “I never take it for granted. I am here to help my colleagues, and they are always here to help me. Even my 20-something-year-old classmates support, help and encourage me. I’ve never felt like an outsider, but that I belong.

“The professors have been so encouraging and have given me so many opportunities. They made it possible for me to participate in the law school’s study abroad program in New Zealand, which was an experience of a lifetime that I never thought would be possible. And I was also given the opportunity to be a professor’s teaching assistant.”

WMU-Cooley Vibe

Smith believes the WMU-Cooley curriculum and people are second to none.

“The curriculum at WMU-Cooley is so challenging, amazing, interesting, and intriguing, but it’s the people that stand out,” declared Smith. “There is a vibe here at WMU-Cooley that I don’t think you will find at most other law schools. That vibe includes enthusiasm and due diligence. It includes positive attitudes and commitment. And the encouragement you receive among the staff, professors, and students is contagious.

“We are an energized, diverse group of people who all have the same goal. We just want to be lawyers and save lives.”

WMU-Cooley student Valerie Smith

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