LAKE WORTH, Fla. – Victor Oloﬁn, a Palm Beach State College alumnus with a passion for civil rights and criminal justice reform, will get a full ride to law school after being among 10 chosen for the inaugural cohort of the Marshall-Motley Scholars Program.
The groundbreaking program, launched in January by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, will create a pipeline of next generation civil rights lawyers in the South.
It is named after Thurgood Marshall, Supreme Court justice and LDF founder, and Constance Baker Motley, the ﬁrst Black woman to serve as a federal judge.
Oloﬁn, who will attend Harvard Law School, said earning the scholarship is an opportunity of a lifetime, and credits PBSC and the longstanding support of sociology professor Heather Naylor for helping him to reach his goals.
“It is an immense honor. It’s a humbling and surreal experience,” said Oloﬁn, who appeared on “GMA3:What You Need to Know,” an hourlong news program airing on ABC. “To be honest, it still doesn’t feel real.”
According to a LDF news release, the scholars pledge to devote the ﬁrst eight years of their career to practicing civil rights law in service of Black communities in the South. In exchange, they receive a full law school scholarship for tuition, room and board and incidentals.
The scholars also receive summer internships with national and regional civil rights organizations with ofﬁces in the South focused on racial justice, a two-year postgraduate fellowship at civil rights law organizations and access to special training sponsored by the LDF and the National Academy of Sciences.
“We received hundreds of impressive applications after launching the MMSP earlier this year, and it was difﬁcult reducing that number to the 10 scholars we have selected,” said LDF President and Director-Counsel Sherrilyn Iﬁll said. “It is clear by the popularity of the MMSP that our nation is replete with passionate individuals seeking to create change.’’
SOUTH FLORIDA NATIVE
Oloﬁn was raised in Loxahatchee, graduated from Seminole Ridge High School in 2014 and enrolled at PBSC that year at the recommendation of his mother and one of his sisters, who are both PBSC alumnae. One of four children, including an older brother who is a Cornelltrained attorney, Oloﬁn said he had always been interested in law. The deaths of Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown, which sparked nationwide protests, fueled Oloﬁn’s interests in criminal justice reform and civil rights law.
“I knew that if we wanted accountability, we would have to get it for ourselves, and one of the best ways to do that is through law. I definitely had it on my mind when I enrolled in Palm Beach State College, but the institutional support I had there made those dreams concrete,’’ he said. “I had professors like Prof. Naylor who saw my potential and who brought it out. They fostered an environment of community, of higher education and of quality and affordable education that kind of spoke to me.”