Taking the Stand: Graduate Gets on Her Feet and Follows Dreams of Legal Career

By Tom McLaughlin

At 17 years old, RoseMarie DeJesus found herself pregnant with her second child, and unable to avoid the disappointment and judgement of her teachers and fellow classmates. One of her teachers, she says, even used her as an example for the class of what not to do with one’s life.

“It was right then and there that I realized my mother was right: people were going to label me as just another statistic,” says DeJesus, who will graduate from Rutgers University–Camden on May 17 with a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies. “I remember that feeling of failure overwhelmed me. I never felt so out of place and unwelcomed.”

Rose DeJesus

But as she would learn to do time and time again, DeJesus picked herself up and carried on. Through all of the challenges she would endure, she came to believe that she was born with a purpose: to serve others who are in need and cannot help themselves.

The former longtime Northfield resident now plans to pursue a law degree upon graduating and fulfill that purpose as an attorney serving victims of crime and those seeking workers’ compensation.

The diploma is as much an affirmation of her enduring ambitions as it is a testament to her resurrected belief in herself.

For many years, DeJesus explains, she allowed the opinions of others cripple her confidence and desire to succeed. Her insecurities led her into unhealthy relationships, and her emotional well-being suffered as a result.

“I lost sight of what was important: me, my children, and our future,” she says. “I struggled to keep up with my studies, work full-time, and care for two small children with very little help from anyone. Indeed, sometimes I fell short.”

In time, however, DeJesus found that her greatest source of strength and comfort was right beside her: the amazing children she was raising. Her oldest son, Gabriel, is now a corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps, while her second son, Marcus, is attending Atlantic Cape Community College and preparing to enroll in the U.S. Air Force. She also welcomed the birth of a third child, Natalia, who is currently an eighth grader.

In 2009, DeJesus earned an associate’s degree in paralegal studies at Atlantic Cape Community College. She then began a longtime position working as a paralegal for D’Arcy Johnson Day Lawyers in Egg Harbor Township, a firm specializing in workers’ compensation, personal Injury, medical malpractice, and nursing-home neglect.

“Content” in her career, it wasn’t until a chance conversation with one of the firm’s senior attorneys did DeJesus realize that she was settling for mediocrity.

“He recognized the love that I have for the law and encouraged me to leave my comfort zone and take risks that normally I would think are out of the realm of possibilities,” she says.

DeJesus with her children (from left to right) Marcus, Gabriel, and Natalia

With two adult children who were carrying out their dreams, she says, it was time for her to focus on her own.

In 2014, DeJesus made the decision to continue her college education and arrived at Rutgers–Camden shortly thereafter.

While she already had considerable experience in her field, she says, she credits her Rutgers–Camden professors for helping to mold her into a “better professional” and give her the added push needed to achieve goals she had set for herself.

“They provided me with the skills that I believe will make me a great attorney, but they also helped instill in me confidence and resolve,” she says. “Most will agree that obtaining a college degree is the pathway to a better career, but for me, it was so much more than that.”

Earlier this month, DeJesus relocated to Corinth, Texas, with her boyfriend, Troy, and their two dogs. She just started a new position as a paralegal at the firm of Sommerman, McCaffity & Quesada, LLP, in Dallas, and is studying to take the LSATs in September in preparation for law school.

Today, while painful memories may still remain, DeJesus spends more time picturing herself as a successful attorney in court.

“‘May it please the court, RoseMarie DeJesus on behalf of Jane Smith’ – I practice lines like this every day.” she says. “It’s a dream, sure, but one I am working relentlessly on becoming a reality.”

In fulfilling that dream, she also hopes to be in the position to serve as a mentor to young women in situations similar to what she experienced, and prove to them that they are not defined by their mistakes.

“While I focus my efforts on looking ahead, I never want to forget where I came from and how I got to where I am today,” she says. “If I am going to be labeled a statistic, I will be a statistic of success.”

Posted in: Student Achievement

Comments are closed.