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Alumni and Friends Making an Impact

Fulfilling a Childhood Dream

Celeste Friel knew at an early age she wanted to be a lawyer. What she didn’t know is how a worldwide pandemic and some unexpected generosity would propel her to achieve that dream.

Friel is a third-year student in the University of Dayton School of Law’s Leadership Honors Program — a scholarship program supported in part by One Day, One Dayton donations made to the School of Law Dean's Fund for Excellence.

And even though law school was Friel’s childhood dream, it wasn’t always a certainty.

“As a kid, all I ever wanted to be was an attorney, but during undergrad I started questioning whether I should explore other careers, too,” said Friel. After graduating she took some time to work and reflect on her future. “The pandemic provided lots of time to reflect,” Friel said with a chuckle. In the end, she felt drawn to pursue her dream.

Friel knew she wanted to attend a law school with a strong alumni community and career services department, and she was impressed with UD at every step of the application process. “By the time it was all said and done, it was clear that Dayton was where I wanted to go,” she said.

And the financial burden of attending UD School of Law was eliminated when Friel was selected for the Leadership Honors Program which provides a full-tuition scholarship as well as a leadership certificate. Students like Friel, with high-quality credentials and leadership aptitude, are exactly the kind of students the program hopes to draw, according to program director Ericka Curran.

“We hope the combination of scholarship and leadership certificate gets students excited to attend UDSL. And once they are here, we hope it enhances their engagement as a student,” said Curran.

In addition to coursework, year one of the program features a leadership roundtable chaired by former Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, in which students learn from and network with national and international experts in law, governance and business. In year two, students learn more about leadership and hone their skills in a leadership certificate program. In the final year, students complete a legacy project for a nonprofit legal aid organization or research right-to-counsel legislation for people, specifically those in poverty.

The legacy project aligns perfectly with UD’s commitment to experiential learning, one of the We Soar campaign fundraising priorities. “These pro bono projects align with UD’s Marianist values and desire for our graduates to be lawyers of service to others,” said Curran.

Friel, who graduates in May, is grateful to the program and wants donors who support it to know she hopes to use her degree to serve the Dayton community.  

“Scholarships are a powerful way to attract and retain talent to the Dayton area. I’m a native of the Chicagoland area, but thanks to the generosity of others, the Leadership Honors Program scholarship brought me to Dayton and now I’m staying," said Friel.


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