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Spring 2023 Scholarship Winner: Michael Higham

The Micklin Law Group- Spring 2023 Scholarship Winner: Michael Higham

Michael’s winning essay:

Thank you for your consideration of my scholarship application. First, a little bit about my personal history. My given English name is Michael Allen Higham and my birth name was Andre Kononov. I was born in Tyumen, Russia during the transition of communism to democracy during the late 1990’s. My birth parents were unable to care for me as they were uneducated, and jobs were very hard to find so they placed me in a Russian orphanage.

Unable to have children of their own, my American parents adopted both myself at 12 months old and a 3-year-old girl from the orphanage in Tyumen. Thousands of Russian babies came to America during the economic depression in Russia during the 1990’s. My adoptive parents owned a house and some land in rural southern Medina County, Ohio. It’s an impoverished area and there weren’t any neighbors who had children our age to play or visit. Going to school and being with kids my age was my solace from August to June. It also allowed me to experience the inequity of how people live day to day.

Shortly after moving to the United States my adoptive mother started to show signs of a delusional disorder which severely impacted me, my sister, and my new extended family. I was grateful to spend any time that I was able to with my aunt and other extended family members, who led by example. My father was not well-equipped in dealing with someone with mental illness, so we were basically on our own. In 7th grade, my father took a job at a well-known global manufacturer in Cleveland, Ohio. This meant moving to a large affluent suburb over an hour away. The contrast in neighborhoods and available resources was astounding to me.

Entering high school, at the prompting of my aunt and dear Palestinian friend, I became very involved in both school and my community. It also allowed me to be away from the chaos of home. Freshman year, I regularly volunteered at a local animal rescue center. I participated in The Willoughby South High School mock trial team, student council, and National Honor Society. I was also a member of the track and cross-country team. During the winter of my junior year, I participated in a 5K with benefits going to the Arthritis Foundation. I was employed at Heinen’s, a high-end grocery store.

My experience as a selected member of Leadership Lake County, which is a private educational non-profit 501© (3), revealed many ways a student-citizen can be committed to social, civic, and economic excellence within a community. During this program, I created a service project to support Project Hope, an international global health and humanitarian aid (non-governmental) organization. I collected items for care kits to donate to a homeless shelter. Each month involved a different learning objective and community services/government was the most inspirational time. I learned about issues many municipalities face and how ballot measures affect funding for public services. After, I was instructed on how imperative it is to understand and recognize the importance of civic engagement. Growing as a strong leader and learning the skills and understanding to create positive change for people experiencing injustice and inequality was a key to my educational path.

The summer of my junior year I was lucky enough to be chosen to attend The American Legion Buckeye Boys State at Miami University in Oxford, OH. Buckeye Boys State is an eight-day hands-on experience in the operation of the democratic form of government, the organization of political parties, and the relationship of one to the other in forming our state government. Buckeye Boys State was a week to shape a lifetime and it certainly enhanced my desire to go to law school.

As it became more evident that those of color and poverty were being marginalized by both our political leaders as well as corporate America, I again looked to help those most vulnerable. Learning that a protest is a helpful way to spread awareness of social inequality, a friend and I chose to become involved. During the international protests over the 2021 Israel- Palestine crisis, I went to Columbus to express support to stop war and violence in Palestine. Unfortunately, social discriminations are common everywhere. The issues I am involved with currently is with people of color and poverty. These issues can attempt to be resolved with local elections and I made sure to get my peers to register to vote and drove a few friends to the polls on election day.

Currently, I’ve signed up as a volunteer for The Bail Project, which is also a non-profit that aims to pay bail for those who don’t have the resources to pay it themselves. Racial justice means ending cash bail, not protecting the private businesses that profit from it or the people whose families have wealth, which tend to be white. Freedom should be free, and no one should sit in a jail cell without a conviction simply because they cannot afford bail. In alignment with these beliefs, I am committed to providing robust, intentional, and impactful help to those struggling with cash bail.

Seeing the good in everyone is one of my greatest strengths. I try to consider all perspectives and stay positive in situations. I encourage others to be more open-minded and try to understand the attributions to someone’s behavior. One of my weaknesses would be not having enough patience. I have learned that everyone is on their own path, and I still struggle to remain patient.

My goal is to become a legal advocate for those people who are disregarded in our current culture due to the lack of generational wealth, lack of education and/or decent wage employment. I intend to achieve this goal by staying on that same path of justice for all and gaining a law degree. Motivating others to comprehend the importance of this and how all of society will benefit from equity and equality is my main objective.

Organizing protests, voter registrations and assisting organizations that understand these same principles will assist in achieving a more harmonious civilization that cares for all its citizens. My voice will be a force of change for the community of all Americans, and I will work hard to execute them.

My aspirations for the 2022-2023 school year are to attend The University of Cincinnati full-time and begin my law school journey. The injustice that occurs everywhere is something I am passionate about reimagining. Specifically, the pretrial justice that affects people of color and in poverty. I plan on continuing to work with The Bail Project and a scholarship will help me be able to focus more on reforming the justice system.

Again, I appreciate the consideration of my application, and will look forward to the next steps of the process.

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