St.Vil “Ali” Kalman Brittany Leonard Cynthia RamkellawanTop Bar Exam Scorer, Youngest Law Student Among 2014 Class
ORLANDO, Fla. – More than 140 Florida A&M University (FAMU) College of Law graduates will participate in the university’s 10th Annual Spring Hooding Ceremony on Saturday, May 10 at 10 a.m. at the Hilton Orlando, located at 6001 Destination Parkway.
Among the 2014 class are a diverse group of graduates who have already begun to make their impact on the world.
According to graduate Mark St. Vil, the education he received at FAMU has provided him with an opportunity to give back to his hometown of Miami. Appointed the 2014 hooding ceremony student speaker, St. Vil said his experiences with the social environment of the Miami area is what sparked his interest in law school.
“I witnessed injustice on a large scale," said St. Vil, who is Haitian-Bahamian. “Once I completed my undergraduate degree, I knew I wanted to make a difference for my community and a legal career seemed like the best way to place myself in position to do that."
St. Vil received his B.S. in political science with a concentration in pre-law from FAMU. As a law student, he held leadership positions in several student organizations on the local and national level, including serving as director of membership for the Southern Region of the Black Law Students Association. During his time at FAMU, St. Vil recognized the pivotal role mentoring can play in making a difference in the lives of young people and became an active member of Situational Environmental Circumstances (SEC) Mentoring, an organization with an initiative that serves at-risk students from high-risk communities. St. Vil will start his legal career with the Miami-Dade Public Defender's Office.
"Of the law firms I interviewed with, I was confident that criminal defense work in my hometown gives me the best opportunity to make the biggest impact on the lives of individuals," he said.
Brittany Leonard, an Orlando native, will receive the FAMU College of Law Valedictorian Award, which is the most prestigious distinction that an individual can obtain at the law school.
"This is truly exciting and an honor I will cherish forever," Leonard said. "I am beyond excited to have earned this accomplishment. I can truly say when you are driven to succeed, with hard work and dedication, your goals and dreams can become reality."
Leonard participated in William R. Boone High School's Law Magnet Program where she learned various aspects of the law in an academic setting, and was able to apply that knowledge in practical settings. She dedicated hundreds of hours to the juvenile and state court systems in the Central Florida area while a program participant. She went on to graduate summa cum laude from the University of Central Florida (UCF) with a B.S. degree in business management.
Leonard remained in Orlando to attend law school and became senior lead editor of the FAMU Law Review, vice president of the Women's Law Caucus and student member of the George C. Young First Central Florida American Inn of Court. She also maintained in active presence in the community by serving as a volunteer with Boys Town of Central Florida, the City of Orlando and Thomas S. Kirk Juvenile Justice Center.
Alexandra “Ali” Kalman, who graduated cum laude in the Fall 2013 semester, will join the more than 140 FAMU College of Law graduates for the 10th Annual Hooding Ceremony.
Kalman represents a significant milestone for the FAMU College of Law. She was one of the highest scorers on the Florida Bar Exam, marking the second consecutive year a FAMU College of Law alumnus brought home one of the exam’s top scores.
"When I found out that I received one of the highest scores on the Florida Bar Exam I could not believe it," said Kalman, a St. Petersburg, Fla. transplant originally from Boston, Mass. "This has taught me that anything is possible with hard work and dedication."
Kalman received both her B.A. degree in legal studies and B.S. degree in psychology from UCF. She worked two years in a law firm before deciding to attend law school, based on a desire to help others in need and ensure that everyone has equal access to the court system. She is a recipient of the Central Florida Bankruptcy Law Association Book Award, and has additional book awards in bankruptcy and debtor-creditor rights; Florida Bar law and skills; multistate bar law and skills; remedies; and wills, estates and trusts. Book awards are presented to students with the highest grade in a course.
Lastly, the FAMU College of Law will break a record when it bestows the juris doctor on its youngest graduate, Cynthia Ramkellawan, at the ripe age of 21.
Ramkellawan, who attended high school in Osceola County, accomplished the remarkable feat of enrolling in law school at the age of 19. She will receive the doctoral gown as a graduate at the top of her class on Saturday and plans to become a judicial law clerk, return to law school to pursue her LL.M. degree, and eventually become a professor of law.
"My parents built their entire lives in America from scratch and instilled in my sister and I, notions of hard work,” said Ramkellawan, whose parents emigrated from Guyana. "Through their own work ethic and the fact that they built their entire lives here without assistance from anyone or anything, I learned to always push myself."
Ramkellawan graduated from UCF summa cum laude with a B.A. in pre-law. She only needed one year to complete the program as a result of taking numerous college credit courses while attending Osceola High School. She is a recipient of the Outstanding Law Student Rattler Pride Award, based on her selfless volunteerism while excelling academically in the classroom. Ramkellawan partners with the Professional Opportunities Program for Students, Inc. (POPS) program to head an ACT/SAT Prep Course that is free of charge for interested students. She also mentors young ladies in the foster care system.
The 2014 FAMU College of Law class is another example of the great things happening every day at FAMU.