Monday Morning Message 5.26.20 Above and Beyond: Our Students

Posted 2020-05-26 9:52am

“Learn how to dance with the unknown.” – Jonathan Fields, Uncertainty

 This unprecedented semester recently ended, and I could not be more proud of our students. They leaned into the disruption and uncertainty and learned how to dance with the unknown.

Our students were forced to juggle the usual pressures of being a law student with a range of new and unexpected challenges, not of their making. They faced sudden and unexpected stress and faced these anxieties without the direct support networks they have built on campus.

They united as a community in the face of a shared crisis. They reached out to each other and to those in need, reflecting our mission of Learn Law. Live Justice.  Let me give you some examples.

  • Chernor Bah, a 2L, is a Critical Care ICU and Recovery nurse. Chernor was deployed to the islands of Curaco and Aruba with a group of nurses and doctors to assist with the most critical Covid-19 patients who required ventilation support and invasive procedures.
  •  Tim Green, a 1L, volunteered for the Red Cross to assist with the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Susan Jacobsen, a 3L, posted messages on social media offering to send inspiring daily text emails to anyone who was feeling lonely, isolated, anxious, or depressed.
  • Samantha (Samm) Monroe, a 2L, a member of the Air Force Reserve, volunteered to be activated to help those in need during the pandemic.
  • Renee Stromski, a 2L, posted daily confinement tips on social media for staying healthy and safe during our quarantined time.
  • Heather Thomas, a 3L, offered a free room in her home for any student forced to move out of campus housing because of Covid-19.
  • Our Community Advocacy Clinic students created a tenant hardship affidavit to assist tenants in crisis by documenting their situations, proactively anticipating potential eviction litigation, and took a lead role in creating a landlord-tenant guide for distribution to homeless shelters.
  • Finally, two announcements about two of our extraordinary graduating students.

This year’s Valedictorian is Alexandria Gardella ’20. Alex’s outstanding academic performance is a result of her intellect, hard work, persistence, and positive attitude. She was the Chief Publications Editor for the Cleveland State Law Review and a peer tutor, helping her fellow students with their studying and exam taking skills. She will be working at Ogletree Deakins, one of the largest labor and employment law firms in the nation.

This year’s Dean’s Learn Law Live Justice Award Winner is Anthony Alto ’20. This award goes to a graduating student who has not only been academically successful in learning law but also has learned what it means to live justice - to be committed to making others’ lives better and our communities stronger. 

Anthony has regularly volunteered for the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland at their brief advice and expungement clinics, as well as for the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association’s pro se divorce clinics. As a board member of the Hispanic Law Student Association, he organized a mission to a detention center in Dilley, Texas where students assisted immigrants seeking asylum. Anthony participated in both our civil litigation and community advocacy clinics where he worked with the Young Latino Network to organize regularly scheduled civic rights events for the Hispanic community. Upon passage of the bar, Anthony will open his own solo practice with the goal of establishing a permanent presence in Cleveland’s Hispanic neighborhood. He was nominated by Professor Pam Daiker-Middaugh and Associate Dean Carolyn Broering-Jacobs.

Congratulations to Alex and Anthony!

Over these past ten weeks, our students repeatedly demonstrated what truly counts in our lives: the health and safety of family and friends, and our commitment to taking care of one another and those in need.

Tuesday Moment:

About a month ago, one of our outstanding law students, Hailey Hillsman, a 1L, asked me if I could find a judge who would officiate her virtual wedding ceremony. She told me that she didn't want Covid-19 to prevent her from the joy of having a wedding ceremony. So I called Ohio Supreme Court Justice Melody Stewart ‘88, a member of our CSU Cleveland-Marshall Hall of Fame, and she immediately and graciously agreed. This weekend, Hailey and Derek Kuhlman were married outside in downtown Cleveland. Special thanks to Justice Stewart for performing this beautiful ceremony and congratulations to Hailey and Derek!

Stay safe. Stay healthy.

If you missed CSU President Harlan Sands’ virtual Town Hall on Wednesday, May 20, you can see it here.

Have a great day. Have a great week.

 For copies of past messages, please go to this link: Monday Morning Messages

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 My views in all my Monday Morning Messages are my personal views alone and do not reflect the views of our law school or our university.

My best,


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