DALLAS (KXAN) — A Texas law student is the youngest Black student to graduate from law school in the entire country. Haley Schlitz walked across the stage to get her diploma on Friday, making history as the youngest graduate from Southern Methodist University Law School.
“I graduated high school at 13. Graduated undergrad at 16,” Schlitz said. “For the longest time—like the first, maybe like 12 years, 13 years in my life—I actually wanted to be an ER doctor, because my mom’s an ER doctor.” But before she decided what she was going to do and who she was going to be, she had to do some soul searching.
It started when her parents pulled her out of public school to homeschool her. “All the way up through fourth grade, everything was fine,” Schlitz said. That’s when Schlitz said she began to face challenges at her school in Keller, outside of Dallas.
“We had experienced a lot of racism in the school,” Schlitz said. “When the teacher was teaching slavery, other students that looked over at me. And was like, ‘You know, if we lived back in that day, we’d own you.'”
Homeschooling made it possible for her to fast-track her education. She decided to pursue law because she feels that is where she can really make an impact. Concerned with issues like student treatment and microaggressions, she’s now on her way to becoming a licensed lawyer.
Schlitz hopes to have a hand in legislative work, working alongside elected officials or even nonprofits. “I want to go into educational policy,” Schlitz said. “I’m passionate about racial equity, gender equity, education equity, teacher diversity.”
Her drive and motivation leave her parents proud, though that word doesn’t explain the true magnitude of their feelings. “As a parent, the intent never was, ‘Oh, we’re gonna make her into this superstar,’ or making this the path that she ended up making for herself,” said Haley’s dad, William Schlitz, as he held back tears. “I remember holding her [when she was born] and whispering to her, ‘Haley, the world is yours. You just do whatever you want to do, baby girl, daddy’s gonna be here. And we’re on this journey. And as long as I can ride with you, I will ride with you.'”
Now, Schlitz just wants to leave her mark. “Eating noes for breakfast, not letting people tell me what I can and can’t do,” she said. “They don’t know me. I know me. I just hope that a story like mine inspires other people to really, really take charge.”