Wednesday May 18, 2005

Against All Odds

University of Dayton law student makes her dream a reality.

At times it simply seemed impossible. At 22 years old, Cyndi White had her heart set on a law degree from the University of Dayton. But with an infant son and legal custody of her then 12-year-old brother, success seemed unlikely.

That didn't stop White.

"I wanted to be a lawyer since I was 13, and I wasn't willing to give up without trying," she said. 

White did more than try -- she succeeded. The 25-year-old was one of the 163 graduates of the University of Dayton School of Law May 14 at the University of Dayton Arena.

"She is very inspirational," said Lori Shaw, assistant dean of student affairs. "She is someone who really wanted her education."

White's son, Liam, was born during her senior year at the University of Dayton, and when her engagement ended shortly afterward, she became a single mom. She gained custody of her brother, Carl, that same year after his guardians, her grandparents, both died. White's mother is severely disabled and unable to care for him, and her father had long been out of the picture as, according to White, he was a heroin addict. There were few other options for her brother.

"The day my grandfather died was the most stressful day of my life," White said. "It was sad because I lost my grandfather but, in that same instant, I got custody of my brother."

Despite the adversity, White graduated as a double major in English and philosophy in 2002. Her troubles weren't over just yet, however, as she struggled financially that summer, staying with friends as she and her family found themselves homeless for a three-month stint.

Through it all, White's law school dream remained.

"I've always wanted to represent children," she said. "I've seen firsthand the injustice kids go through and I really wanted to make a difference."

White, who is still job hunting, is interested in pursuing a career in the field of family law. According to Tim Swensen, assistant dean and director of law school career services, the job outlook is a bit brighter this year.

"What we're seeing is similar to what the undergrads are experiencing," Swensen said. "It's not booming, but there is a slight improvement in the job market."

Swensen sites elder law as the field experiencing the greatest amount of growth now, but sees other areas as showing gradual job growth as well.

White remains confident that she will find a job. The reality of graduation, however, has yet to sink in completely.

"It still seems a bit surreal, after all I have gone through," she said. "It's a testimony to God's goodness that I am where I am today."

For media interviews, contact Cyndi White at (937) 270-5656.