Seton Hall Law Welcomes Two NJ LEEP Students to Incoming Class

Seton Hall University School of Law is proud of its partnership with NJ Law and Education Empowerment Project, better known as NJ LEEP, since its inception in 2006. This coming fall, the Law School be welcoming two NJ LEEP students to its incoming class, Bashir Herbert and Faatimah Jafiq.

NJ LEEP is a college access program in the greater Newark area that serves high school and college students and their families. The curriculum "uses law to teach transferable skills," focusing on the pillars of skills, habits, and exposure. The organization helps enrolled students build academic and social-emotional skills, excel by creating necessary opportunities to develop positive habits, and gain exposure for experiences available to them.

"NJ LEEP has been an important way for students to sort through and understand what their priorities are," says Matthew Feinstein '09, Executive Director.

The incoming NJ LEEP graduates knew they were destined for legal careers from their adolescent years. NJ LEEP served as the launching pad for their eventual studies at Seton Hall Law.

"NJ LEEP helped me get ahead of the curve and received an advanced education," says Jafiq. "I was better prepared and at the same level as my peers who went to elite prep schools when I entered college."

Herbert credits NJ LEEP with his personal, physical, and mental growth and is "forever grateful" for what it provided him. "The program has helped make educational opportunities more accessible for me and has provided me with the confidence to receive my undergraduate and now graduate degree."

Previously involved in NJ LEEP's College Bound Program and Summer Law Institute, Jafiq and Herbert look forward to what they can accomplish with a law degree. Jafiq, who has interest in international law, hopes to narrow down her passion, gain practical experience, and put theory to practice. Herbert plans to reform the Criminal Justice system and help minimize the workload of Public Defenders so they may dedicate more time to preparing for cases.

Feinstein has high aspirations for Jafiq and Herbert, saying, "Faatimah is wise, intellectual, and mature beyond her years staying diligently focused on her goals. Bashir is one of the most resilient people I know who persists through whatever obstacle is in his way." Feinstein's confidence in Jafiq and Herbert stems from his firsthand knowledge of NJ LEEP's successful history. He volunteered in 2007 during his 2L year at Seton Hall Law and ultimately was named Executive Director in 2014. As an aspiring law student, Feinstein sought out Seton Hall Law because he desired to be in Newark; currently, he credits the Law School with encouraging students to seek opportunities beyond the walls of the building. Mirroring the work of NJ LEEP, he says, "we are excited to get students into the community to better understand its dynamics. They may drive or walk through it every day, but we encourage them to understand what underscores the vibrancy of Newark."

The Law School hosts NJ LEEP's Legal Education & Mentoring Program, in which law students and lawyer mentors coach high school students for competitive Constitutional Law Debates.

"We are incredibly fortunate that the students feel at home every day in such a prestigious and beautiful place like Seton Hall Law," says Feinstein. "It is not just that they feel allowed in the building but welcomed as if it were their home."

That sentiment runs deep. Jafiq and Herbert both agree attending Seton Hall Law is a no brainer.

"Through the time I spent at NJ LEEP, attending Seton Hall Law will be a coming home of sorts," expresses Jafiq. "I would once see the law students and how helpful everyone was, now I am coming back as a law student."

"One cannot spend a lot of time in a place and not consider it valuable to him," agrees Herbert. "Seton Hall Law is a part of me, and I love the comfort I feel when I am in this building."

That warm feeling can be traced to the Law School's faculty volunteers. Both Dean Kathleen M. Boozang and Professor Solangel Maldonado are members of NJ LEEP's Board of Trustees. Their vested interest helps serve countless first-generation and low-income students on their paths to rewarding educations.

Being in the Law School helps expose students to a world of what is possible. "It provides concrete aspirations for them," says Feinstein. "We are grateful to Dean Boozang for affording the students these opportunities."