The Sadie Scholar Class of 2025 reflects on what the Dr. Sadie T.M. Alexander Scholarship Program means to them and why representation in the legal field is so important.
In fall 2022, the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School welcomed its second class of Dr. Sadie T.M. Alexander Scholars.
Envisioned by Penn Carey Law’s Black Law Students Association in 2020 and established in February 2021, the program is a vital part of the Law School’s commitment to building an inclusive educational environment while working to dismantle the legacy of racial and economic injustice. The inaugural class — Kanyinsola Ajayi L’24, Rheem Brooks L’24, and Angel Reed L’24 — joined Penn Carey Law in fall 2021, and the program expanded to five scholars in 2022.
Now nearing the end of their first year at Penn Carey Law, we sat down with Natine Macauley L’25, Virginia Richards L’25, Camille Awono L’25, Juliana Poroye L’25, and David Alan Johnson L’25 to get their perspective on the program and its impact.
Scholars reflected on Dr. Alexander’s legacy and how her perseverance in the face of overt discrimination is connected to contemporary issues around representation in the legal field today.
What does being a Sadie Scholar mean to you?
Natine Macauley L’25: “It means continuing a really proud legacy of a woman who’s really seen through every aspect of this Law School, but not a lot of people know who she is and why her picture is at the front entrance. So, just being part of that legacy and being able to, as the second class of Sadie Scholars, grow her legacy and grow the program has been really great. It’s just probably the biggest honor of my life.”
What does representation in the legal profession mean to you?
Virginia Richards L’25: “You can’t have an institution where you say, ‘Okay, we’re here to achieve justice and work towards bettering the material needs of Americans using this legal system,’ and then not have what Americans look like represented in the power dynamics of the system. We need to change what the face of the law looks like and who is able to access the law as a system and as a tool. So, I think that’s what representation means to me.”
How has the program shaped your law school journey?
Camille Awono L’25: “Since the start of joining the Sadie Scholar program, I’ve gained a lot of new friends and a lot of mentors. I had no past legal experience; none of my family went to law school. So, I was kind of flying blind. Once I got here and I was able to join the Sadie family, really, what I got out of it were some amazing people who have really shaped my experience and helped me figure out where I want to be.”
What is your favorite part of the program?
Juliana Poroye L’25: “I’d have to say that one of the best things about being a part of this program is that we, the scholars, are included in building it. And I know that for me something that I really enjoy and take pride in is how we can shape the program to be one that serves us well and in the ways that we care about. The people who are leading the program take our thoughts, our concerns, our cares, and they implement them. And so, yeah, we can all participate. All the scholars in the program can participate to make it one that serves them well in their life. That’s something that I really appreciate about the program.”
What does the program mean to you?
David Alan Johnson L’25: “I think the Sadie program means love to me. It’s going back to her story, knowing that she endured unspeakable things when she was in Philadelphia and at Penn, and she still excelled, exceeded expectations, and was still able to give back to her community and serve as an example and representation of what we look like as attorneys and advocates throughout our communities. So, me being in this program and having these sisters alongside me as Sadie Scholars, we just want to ensure that we’re living up to her legacy, just spreading love and trying to be the best that we can be at each of our fields because we know the name that we carry. And, you know, she did it with love and grace.”