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Former teacher hopes to continue working in public interest after graduating from SU College of Law
Former teacher hopes to continue working in public interest after graduating from SU College of LawMay 06, 2002Cynthia J. Moritzcjmoritz@syr.edu
Demond Thomas has switched professions, from teaching to law, but his goals remain the same: to affect society in a positive way, and to be a good role model for young people.
Thomas, who grew up in Arkansas, earned his bachelor’s degree in history from Morehouse College in Atlanta. He went on to earn a master’s degree in history from the University of Cincinnati. Until his last semester, he planned on attending law school. Then, intrigued by teaching, he joined Teach for America, a national corps of outstanding recent college graduates of all academic majors who commit two years to teach in public schools in low-income communities. He was placed in New York City’s Washington Heights, a predominantly Dominican-American neighborhood.
The school Thomas taught in was a “typical New York City school,” he says, with students from lots of different backgrounds. “I gained a better appreciation for how diverse society is and how interlocked our cultures are in society.” Thomas was happy to teach in New York City because of the resources available there, such as museums, theaters and historical sites.
“It was challenging and fun,” he says of his experience teaching social studies to youngsters in sixth through eighth grades. Even though many of the families of the students in his classes were not well off financially, a large majority of the students go on to attend New York City’s specialized high schools, and then to college.
Thomas feels strongly that teachers should model such behaviors as time management, discipline and respect. “Teachers are role models who kids see every day,” he says.
As much as Thomas loved teaching, he became more and more certain that he wanted to go to law school. He credits his teaching experience with helping him to prepare for the rigors of law school. “Dealing with 120 different personalities each day was a challenge,” he says. The transition from history to law seems like a natural one, Thomas says, because a lot of history deals with legal issues.
After graduation, Thomas will return to New York to become an assistant in the Manhattan district attorney’s office. Though he will be in a different role, he hopes to continue his dedication to the public interest. “I think I can accomplish that by making sure society feels safe and secure,” he says. He hopes in his new role to be an advocate for victims’ rights.
He believes that SU’s College of Law has done a good job of preparing him for his new career. “Syracuse is a very student-centered law school,” he says. He also lauds SU’s excellent trial advocacy law program. He has taken part in moot court activities and the Trial Advocacy Honor Society.
Thomas also hopes to continue teaching in some form. He may end up teaching law school courses, or he may volunteer to work with youth.