Published: May 4, 2007
Story by Robin Roger
some students change their career plans between middle school and
college graduation, Starr Brookins has held on to her lifelong dream.
participating in law magnet programs since the age of 13, her
prodigious preparation will be put into action next fall when she starts
law school at George Washington University with a $30,000 merit
Brookins will graduate magna cum laude—the honor for
a GPA higher than 3.75 but less than 4.0—from The University of Tampa
on May 5. She will leave Tampa, her home for eight years, for
Washington, DC, where she plans to study constitutional law, civil
rights or race relations.
When one-on-one, the shy, soft-spoken
senior speaks quietly about her legal passion, but when she stands
before a class discussing whether Chinese Americans should receive
reparations for their treatment in the United States, her voice grows
“She is very enthusiastic and has very strong
leadership abilities,” says Dr. Richard Piper, Dana professor of
government and world affairs and adviser to the Pre-Law Society. “She’s
very committed to law and public service.”
As soon as she could
talk, Brookins says, she played “court.” At one point, Brookins wanted
to be an FBI profiler and would worry her mom by spending hours looking
up information about serial killers. Her favorite TV show is Law &
Order Special Victims Unit, which is about sex crimes.
attended Tampa’s Franklin Middle Magnet School, which integrates law
studies and public service into the curriculum. As a student at
Jefferson High School, Brookins participated in the international law
and criminal justice magnet programs.
Brookins majored in
criminology and minored in law and justice and was honored by the
faculty as one of three outstanding criminology seniors at UT. As
president of the Pre-Law Society, she brought speakers to campus and
arranged a mock trial with professors from Stetson University College of
When her classmates traveled to Harvard to represent
Greece in the National Model United Nations last year, Brookins
represented a non-governmental organization. Students must apply to
travel to the event, and only 12 out of 25 were chosen that year, Piper
says. But Brookins had to apply directly to Harvard to lobby the UN as
an independent organization.
James Beckman, associate professor
of government, law and justice, said Brookins was within the top 5
percent of all the students he’s seen at UT.
“I wish all the students were as intelligent and motivated as Starr has been in class,” Beckman said.
He also served as her academic adviser.
had everything done from the outset,” he said. “I’ve never had to worry
about her. She’s always known where she wants to go and what the
Brookins took the Law School Admission Test last winter and received her scores over the winter break.
“I thought it was a horrible Christmas present,” she says.
with her scores, she contemplated withdrawing her applications. After
Beckman and her other professors told her schools cared about more than
just test scores, she felt more confident. She received admission to GWU
just a few weeks after she applied.
“I thought someone was playing a joke on me,” she says.
week later, the school offered her a scholarship. While the scholarship
will cover most of the cost of tuition, Brookins says she would like to
get a position in residence life to help defer the cost of living in
D.C. As head resident of McKay-Boathouse, Brookins supervised 200
residents this year.
Brookins has considered taking law school
prep courses during the summer, but her mom encouraged her to take some
time off from school. Brookins’ mom says her daughter is used to being
intense. She’ll fit right in at law school.
Brookins says she
feels well prepared for law school coming out of UT. On a tour of
American University’s law school, she impressed people when they learned
she had written a 30-page brief for an undergraduate class.
she is preparing for the differences between George Washington
University and UT. The bigger city may take some getting used to, she
GWU enrolls nearly 16,000 students, compared to the 5,300
at UT. The law school alone had 1,919 degree candidates enrolled last
But the law school is centralized, so Brookins says she
doesn’t think she’ll get lost in the crowd. Once there, she says she
hopes to join a few groups, such as the black law student association,
or one of the public service or civil rights organizations.
She says that someday, she might want to work for the American Civil Liberties Union or the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
She has already worked as a runner and a legal secretary for a Tampa law firm.
been very clear,” said Stephanie Russell Holz, assistant dean of
students and director of the Vaughn Center. “She wanted to go to law
school, and she knew how she was going to make it happen. She chose her
co-curriculars to help her in that aim.”
Holz worked with
Brookins when the senior chaired the Diversity Fellowship, a peer
education group. As chair, she organized programs such as a discussion
on a common racial epithet that got people talking, and invited speakers
to campus to talk about topics such as the genocide in Rwanda.
really cares about people, Holz says, and believes she can create
social change in the world. It’s easy for students to get into a rut and
feel as though they can’t make a difference, Holz says, but Brookins
tries to get other people to feel they can make a positive change in
“She’s been a role model for younger students
about how important it is to have drive and to have a plan,” Holz says.
“She has been so diligent and focused about finalizing her plans for
While many students are still waiting to hear
from schools or companies, Brookins already has her path planned out.
Now all she has to do is pack … and get rid of her eight LSAT prep
“I’m glad I know what I’m doing after graduation,” she says. “I would be so nervous if I didn’t.”