December 03, 2020

Scholar Voices: How faith the size of a Mustard Seed helped me fulfill my dreams

From a very young age I knew that I wanted to go to law school and become a lawyer. My father planted the seed in my mind of me becoming a lawyer at the prime age of nine years old. Throughout my childhood I was always eager to tell any and everybody that would listen that I was going to grow up and be a lawyer. I remember watching lawyers on television and envisioning my future life through the lens of those television characters. I became engrossed with law-related entertainment whether it was a television show, movie, documentary or book. What nine-year-old do you know who is obsessed with Law & Order? I was that nine-year-old.

It’s funny to think of now but I wrote a list of the law schools I wanted to go to before I ever wrote a list of the colleges I wanted to attend. Going to law school was always something that I looked forward to in life. It was a dream that kept me focused throughout my entire education journey. Similar to most first-generation college students who are children of immigrant parents, my education journey was an uphill battle. In retrospect, it is a journey that I am deeply appreciative of and has cultivated me into the woman of faith that I am today. However, at times it was mentally, emotionally and spiritually trying.

Going into high school I didn’t have any specific goals other than making honor roll and staying out of trouble, which is exactly what I did my freshman year. When report cards came out the first quarter of my sophomore year, I was very surprised to learn that I had earned straight A’s. Until then I was an A-B student and I never thought that I could achieve a 4.0 GPA. That single, unexpected report card was the kickstart to a greater level of faith and expectation in myself. From that day forward I told myself that not only would I attain a 4.0 GPA for the rest of my high school education but that I would graduate as valedictorian.

“You’re not being realistic. You might want to rethink that. You’re still young; life will soon give you a reality check.” These are all statements that I was told by adults who I dared to share my dreams and aspirations with during my adolescent years. Growing up, my mother instilled in me the importance of having faith in God, first and foremost, and in myself. However, as an impressionable teenager the constant cast of doubt or infeasibility on my education and career goals began to slowly chip away at my self-confidence. Notwithstanding the naysayers, I graduated high school as valedictorian and as an Earl Woods Scholar.

Attending college approximately 400 miles away from home was eye-opening to say the least. Being submerged into a space with myriads of people from all different walks of life was very overwhelming and at times it was almost suffocating. In my first year I found myself being terribly homesick and having difficulty navigating college life. Little did I know, in the upcoming years I would be confronted with a collage of life problems from my family home going into foreclosure and having insufficient financial aid to fund my college education to family health scares. Thankfully, through the steadfast support and encouragement of my family, friends and the entire TGR Foundation team I graduated college with the ideal dilemma of having to choose between two law schools where I had been accepted.

On my first day of law school, I felt an amalgamation of many different emotions. I was excited, yet apprehensive; motivated, yet uncertain; self-assured, yet intimidated. I grew exponentially throughout my law school career. I experienced my lowest lows and my highest highs during those three years. The day of my law school graduation was one of the happiest days of my life. The seed that was planted in me so many years ago was now firmly rooted and had fully blossomed. Law school broke me down just to build me back up and showed me the true power of faith. My faith was the hallmark and driving force of my entire education journey, even if at times it was merely the size of a mustard seed.

Redefining what it means to be a champion.

Sarah-Julie Tchokouani, Esq. is currently a judicial law clerk at the Sussex County Court of Common Pleas in Delaware. She is a proud alumna of The Ohio State University and Penn State University, Dickinson Law School where she earned a certificate in Entrepreneurship Law. Since graduating and starting her legal career, Sarah-Julie has stayed connected to TGR Foundation and recently joined a legal career panel to share her experience and provide tips for students interested in law careers.

The Earl Woods Scholar Program is funded by through the generosity of individual donors, organizations including State Street, Farmers Insurance, Aptive Environmental and Bank of the West, and TGR Live Events. Click here for more information on the program and how to get involved.