Only six incoming Baylor University freshmen are accepted into the Baylor 2 Law program each year, and one of those individuals is a Waxahachie High senior.
Emmeline Bearden proudly held the Baylor University logo as she paraded through the Mike Turner Gymnasium on a red carpet, surrounded by cheerleaders and drill team dancers on Wednesday.
The 2018-19 salutatorian has always had a keen interest in U.S. history and "every time we study a court case in class I kind of geek out. Here recently the concept of justice has become very evident over the importance of fairness."
This concept was a challenge a little over one year ago when longtime Waxahachie dance instructor Jennifer Stevens unexpectedly passed away.
"I was mad and really hateful and spiteful toward God," Bearden elaborated. "I really struggled with that. But what I realized was He is not fair, but he is just; justice is blind, and He is not looking at any of that."
This life event influenced her passion for justice and that it is worth protecting in the United States.
She toured the Baylor campus her junior year and stressed out about her future, unsure of where to go. The tour guide continued to elaborate on the school and programs. The longer Bearden was on campus, the surer she was about her decision to enroll.
"It was exactly what I wanted to do," Bearden ensured.
The program only accepts six freshmen from the incoming class out of hundreds of applicants. Bearden wrote a couple of essays and submitted letters of recommendation. On Jan. 18, about 60 finalists were called for an interview with law school staff.
"It was kind of interesting actually because I was thinking they would be asking more serious questions, but the guy I was with was super energetic and easy-going," she explained. "He had my resume, so most of the time he was asking questions about me."
Before the interview portion of the process, Bearden was given a court case to familiarize herself with.
"I talked with every lawyer I've ever known, and said, 'Talk to me about this case, please.'"
One of those individuals that were vital in her research was Lee Auvenshine, Waxahachie ISD Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources and Legal Services, who graduated from the Baylor Law School in 2002.
Over the phone, Auvenshine ensured Bearden would be a benefit to the profession and the clients she serves. He described her as "assertive, intelligent, caring and honest."
Bearden recalled the exact date her acceptance letter arrived in the mail — Feb. 14. She was not having the best day, and the last thing she needed was to hear rejection. Her father opened the letter and encouraged her to read it.
On the front porch of her home, Bearden read the letter with her hand over her mouth. She admitted that she "ugly cried" with joy. She also received a significant scholarship to the private university that averages $42,000 a year.
Once she completes her undergraduate degree, scores at least a 162 on the LSAT and maintains a 3.6 GPA, she will be granted free tuition to the law school. She will also only have to pay $10,000 a year for her undergraduate studies. She also received other scholarships to make her education do-able.
When she read the letter, "It was an incredible feeling. I've worked so hard on my education because it means so much to me. You don't really see that pay off very often."
Auvenshine elaborated on the rigorous curriculum, as she will complete her undergraduate degree in three years. When most students enter their senior year of college, Bearden will begin her first of three years in the law program.
"Baylor is a very rigorous program," Auvenshine stressed. "The Princeton Review has referred to Baylor Law School as the Marine Corps of law schools."
In her first year of law school, Bearden will complete tradition classes such as tort, contracts, property, civil procedure and criminal law.
"In those classes, she will be required to study multiple hours every day and night to prepare each day to be questioned by professors on the case studies," he explained. "One hundred percent of her grades will be determined by final exams at the end of each quarter."
Bearden will have the opportunity to compete nationally in moot court competitions, which is the appellate court.
Her second year of law school she will study trust and estates, constitutional law, administrative law and will take electives. In her third and final year she will take practice court, and evidence along with professional responsibility.
"The practice court program is renowned throughout the state and nation to prepare students to be ready to enter the courtroom immediately after graduation," Auvenshine explained.
He continued, "She will at least take three cases and prepare them for trials, and she will take one large case that she will work on the majority of her year and prepare for a big trial and will have the opportunity to compete on behalf of Baylor Law School in mock trial competitions."
Concluding the interview, Bearden went on to thank her parents and other individuals that have shaped her into the person she is today.
Waxahachie band director, Richard Armstrong, has been instrumental in influencing Bearden in achieving goals with his tough love attitude. In the four years in the band program, Armstrong gave her confidence in perusing challenges.
"He's not afraid to tell you it's going to be hard and that you are going to have to work for it," Bearden said. "I appreciate that he goes to that limit and tell you that you're going to have to work this hard. He tells us that and then prepares us for it."
Bearden also recognized WHS teacher Christina Verdin who helped her study the court case before traveling to Baylor as a finalist.
- - - - - -
Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450