In the Spotlight

Omar Debs - CSJ Scholar


Commitment to social change.  Focus on providing legal services to those in need.  Perseverance in the face of great odds.  These are the characteristics that define a Center for Social Justice (CSJ) Scholar.  Each year, the Seton Hall Law School Center for Social Justice selects one or more students from those who have completed their first year of law school to serve as CSJ Scholars.  The Scholars, who will serve until graduation, are offered a range of public interest opportunities and benefits, including the chance to work on projects at the CSJ during their second year of law school and a full-year of clinical courses in the final year of law school.  This year, the Association of Corporate Counsel of New Jersey generously provided a scholarship of $1,000 for each Scholar to support their public interest work during law school.

Omar Debs ‘19 comes from an immigrant family that struggled for many years to build a life in the United States.  His family was impacted by issues such as immigration/deportation, poverty, and housing.  “Whether it be housing or financial issues, my family and I have experienced those issues without much help,” said Debs.  “Because of that, it is one of my lifelong goals to help as many people going through similar issues as I can.”

Debs graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in accounting and specialization in environmental studies, and then worked for a Fortune 25 company.  He transitioned to a government position with the State of Nevada, which prompted his interest in public service and attending law school.  At Seton Hall Law, Debs has been elected to serve as a Senator on the Student Bar Association and he is the Treasurer for the Arab Law Students Association. He has volunteered with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program to assist low-income taxpayers and with Eviction Clinic run by Volunteer Lawyers for Justice (VLJ) in Newark.

Service to others has been an integral part of Debs’ life since he was in college.  He has volunteered for the Special Olympics and coordinated United Way fundraising efforts in his previous positions.  During his summer position at Prudential, he conducted client interviews and prepared documents for indigent clients as a pro bono volunteer with the Eviction Clinic operated by Volunteer Lawyers for Justice.

“The challenges I faced growing up have instilled in me a duty to help underprivileged people.  Volunteering is not something I do to make myself feel better; in fact, I often leave service events with a heavy heart because I realize there are so many more people in need who are not receiving help.”  Debs hopes that his time as a CSJ Scholar will help him improve the quality of his volunteer service and help him discover the path to use his career to effect positive change in the community “not only from an individual level, but also in terms of greater social policy.”

During the spring of 2018, Debs is assisting the CSJ with its criminal justice initiatives, specifically focusing on re-entry reform.  After law school, Debs hopes to work at a law firm with a very strong pro bono practice and use his unique skill set as a former auditor, CSJ Scholar, and outstanding law student to do work that will promote social justice.  When he is not studying for classes or volunteering, Debs play his drum set, preparing for his future career as an amateur band member.