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Alumni and Friends Making an Impact

Lighting a Path for Others

Jamel Gross-Cassel ’20 has been estranged from all of his relatives, including his nine older siblings and parents, for six years. College wasn’t even in the picture for Jamel growing up, but his high school guidance counselor talked him into at least applying to schools that didn’t require an application fee. When he took the SAT, he chose Dayton as one of those schools.

Based on his SAT score, he started to receive a lot of acceptance letters — and scholarship offers — but only one school reached out by phone and asked him where he was on his decision. That’s the difference of UD.

Jamel was awarded the McHale-Mattson scholarship and was given a Greyhound ticket to get to Dayton. As soon as he arrived, he worked 20 hours a week doing dishes or overnight work on campus. He did it all so he could graduate and get a good job.

“No one in my life ever recognized or tried to nurture my intelligence, but donors I never met risked thousands of dollars that I make something of myself,” said Jamel. “I had to tell myself, ‘Don’t use your intelligence to find food and shelter for today, use your intelligence to create a whole future of tomorrows.’”

Now a proud UD graduate, Jamel will spend the next three years at the Fordham University School of Law.

“I’ve been in a lot of courtrooms … as a young kid and in my internship,” said Jamel. “I want to be an advocate for those who aren’t as fortunate as me. Some defense attorneys, they might just see you as a case. For a lot of people like me and where I’m from, one case can put you in a system that you can’t get out of, so I understand the importance of being a criminal defense attorney.”

That’s one way Jamel sees he can give back. He also sees the importance of donating to the University of Dayton. “My story can only be amazing once. Donors change the life of students every year and you do it again, and again, and again,” said Jamel.

“Donors change lives. They absolutely changed my life,” said Jamel. “You helped turn a homeless kid from Pennsylvania into a law student at the 27th ranked law school in the world.”

Learn more about Jamel’s story — view his video message and read his speech to the John Stuart Society.

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