In 2007, as a member of the “Jena Six,” 17-year-old Theo Shaw spent seven months in jail, unable to pay for bail after being accused of gang-beating a white student.
Now, Shaw is headed to law school — with a full ride from the University of Washington.
The “Jena Six” were initially charged with attempted second-degree murder for beating a student who had to go to the emergency room but attended a school event the same night.
Becoming a symbol for harsh punishments of young, black males, Shaw and the other members of the “Jena Six” attracted national attention and support, culminating in a march attended by thousands of people in the small Louisiana town of Jena.
Five of the black students — including Shaw — eventually pleaded “no contest” to battery charges. Shaw “insists that he played no role in the attack” on the white student, according to the Times-Picayune, but he eventually pleaded no contest, too.
However, his experiences almost a decade ago seem to have changed Shaw’s life for the better. While he told The Times-Picayune in 2014 that before landing in jail he had no plans to attend college, Shaw eventually graduated from the University of Louisiana at Monroe in 2012 with a B.A. in political science.
By 2014, he was working with the Southern Poverty Law Center, counseling juvenile offenders.
Now, it looks like Shaw is headed out of the South, to attend law school this fall at the University of Washington, in Seattle. According to The Times-Picayune, Shaw will enter UW as one of five William H. Gates Public Service Law Scholars, a scholarship that covers the law school’s tuition and fees, as well as room, board, books, and other expenses.
“For a school to believe in you so much that they would just cover everything? … I’m profoundly grateful,” Shaw told the newspaper.
“You have already shown yourself to be a person of commitment and drive,” the UW letter congratulating Shaw reads, according to The Times-Picayune. “Your participation as a Gates Scholar will help us continue to build our law school community, and will also help in making our world a better place.”
Gates scholarship recipients commit to working in public service for five years after graduating UW law school, according to the school’s website.
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