For as long as she can remember, Jamela Carrell has dreamt of becoming a lawyer. It’s the answer she gave in grade school when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, and the idea was reinforced throughout her adolescent years as she saw lawyers depicted in films like A Few Good Men.

Jamela even sought to earn her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Langston University in Oklahoma a few years after graduating from high school. However, as she was just shy of earning her degree, Jamela’s studies were cut short in order to earn money to support her growing family. All she had left to complete was an internship.

Then, after moving from Oklahoma City to Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood about five years ago, a friend who was attending City Colleges suggested that Jamela do the same, knowing she was interested in furthering her education. Jamela learned about the Paralegal Program offered at Wright College and enrolled in the program in spring 2019. She deeply enjoyed her courses and professors, but, after one semester, she was forced to push pause on her studies to make ends meet.

Just about one year later, Jamela received an email from City Colleges about the system’s new Fresh Start program. By that time, Jamela had saved enough money that she knew she would be able to afford her classes, but she wouldn’t be able to pay-off the outstanding balance from her first semester. Fresh Start, which relieves students’ prior debts, offered a means to achieve her dreams.

Jamela re-enrolled at Wright in fall 2020 and is back on the path to earning her associate degree. She credits Paralegal Program Coordinator Cara Verigan with providing support and sharing endless opportunities with students, from internship programs to free courses at local law schools. And one of those internship recommendations might even qualify for the last requirement Jamela needs to earn her bachelor’s degree from Langston.

As an aspiring lawyer, Jamela says City Colleges is the most logical choice when it comes to higher education. Through Wright’s Paralegal Program, she’s taking American Bar Association-accredited courses, while saving money and receiving personalized support. It’s exactly the Fresh Start that Jamela was looking for.


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