Deborah Omolola '25
NY Giants Fellowship Preps Deborah Omolola '25 for Judicial Career

Major: Law & Society
Programs: Macaulay Honors, Pre-Law Institute, African Student Association
Mentors: Linda Humes, Jerylle Kemp and Aisha Abdelmula
Fellowship: New York Giants Touchdown Fellowship
Queens Community Justice Center, Justice Frederick Sampson at Queens Supreme Court, Proskauer Rose LLP
Hometown: Lagos, Nigeria; New York City
Career Aspiration: Judge

What was life like before John Jay?
I was born in Nigeria and lived with my grandparents during my early years. In Nigeria, the school system was different. By age three, I was advanced in math, English, and writing skills. When I was five years old, my dad, sister, and I came to the U.S. because of Lagos’ high crime rate. My parents wanted us to live in a safer environment. They gave up their careers as lawyers in Nigeria so we could have a better chance at life in the U.S. I told myself I could not let their sacrifices be in vain. Now, I strive for excellence every day, both academically and professionally. Every bit of my success is my parents’ success.

Why John Jay?
Like most of my peers, I grew up watching Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, which piqued my interest in criminal justice. But it was my parents who had the most significant influence on me. Growing up, I saw how they navigated their new lives in America with such integrity and determination to do the right thing. They set up non-profits, worked to uplift communities, and helped African immigrants acclimate to life in this country. Learning about John Jay’s mission to explore what justice means in all its forms mirrored so much of what my parents taught me. That made John Jay the right college for me.

How did Macaulay Honors and the Pre-Law Institute help further your career aspirations?
Macaulay has strengthened my leadership and networking skills and prepared me to make a difference in the world. The program has connected me to alumni mentors. Macaulay also provided me with a laptop and is taking care of tuition, which has been a blessing as it has lifted the financial burden my family would have to carry.

Through PLI, I’ve participated in the pre-law boot camp, attended workshops, and will participate in an LSAT prep program this summer. I’ve also learned about incredible internship opportunities. I had an internship at Proskauer in their finance department and interned at the Queens Supreme Court with Justice Frederick Sampson. The staff at PLI have also been extremely supportive. Jerylle Kemp, associate director of outreach and engagement, consistently reassured me throughout each of my internships. She checked in on me regularly, encouraged me, boosted my confidence, and reminded me that I belonged in the field.

What made you apply to the New York Giants Touchdown Fellowship?
I was excited to immerse myself in an opportunity that would expand my knowledge of criminal and social justice reform. Through the fellowship, I knew I would gain hands-on experience working in the legal justice system. The system can, at times, be too punitive, harshly punishing people instead of giving them the tools to make better choices. I like the idea of legal professionals working together with the community to improve someone’s outcome. I knew the New York Giants Touchdown Fellowship would give me the perfect opportunity to learn how to create a more humane legal justice system.  

How has the New York Giants Touchdown Fellowship put you on the path to success?
It allowed me to see the different areas of law in which I could work. Through the fellowship, I interned at the Queens Community Justice Center, where I had the opportunity to work with at-risk youth and system-impacted individuals. I ran workshops, provided resources, did curfew checks, and became a sounding board for young people and their families. It was fulfilling being able to help them see their potential and stay out of the system. They often go through things people outside the home don’t know about, and they need someone to hear them out. I remember one young man I was working with who was stealing, missing curfews, and not attending school. After several conversations, I learned he just felt alone. I made it a point to always talk to him and let him know I was there. Soon after, his school approach changed. He just needed someone to show they cared.

The other part of the internship involved me being present in court for hearings. There I interacted with lawyers, judges, and court liaisons determined to provide these young men and women with the best outcome. The whole experience made me realize I want my professional legal career to be one where I lead with empathy.

What would you like to say to the New York Giants?
Thank you for taking a chance on John Jay students. Thank you for giving us the opportunity and platform to make a change in the world. Thank you for investing in our growth and giving us a path to career success. The New York Giants Touchdown Fellowship has given me so much. It has put me in spaces where I could make a difference in young people’s lives. It’s been a life-changing experience.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I see myself working my way up through the legal profession, first as an attorney and then as a judge. I want to be an empathetic judge who tries to understand the backgrounds and experiences of the people brought into court and offer them rehabilitation opportunities. I also see myself uplifting the immigrant community like my parents do. It’s so important to show up for others and show you care.