DePalma secures full-ride scholarships to law schools



Kayla DePalma, a senior public relations and advertising communication major, is attending law school after graduating in May.

Chloe Forbes, Editor in Chief

“The future rewards those who press on.” – Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States

For many, the goal is to find a job right out of college, but some students spend their time as undergraduates preparing for a step in a different direction: graduate school. And with that hard work can also come reward.

Full-ride scholarships to law school may be rare, but they’re not impossible, as Kayla DePalma, a senior public relations and advertising communication major at Gannon University, recently found out. Both Penn State University and Duquesne University have offered DePalma full-paid tuition, and the University of Pittsburgh offered her very close to full tuition.

Anne O’Neill, DePalma’s academic adviser and an associate teaching professor in the School of Communication and the Arts, said these opportunities speak highly of DePalma’s skills and her Gannon education.

“Kayla is an extremely hard-working student,” O’Neill said. “I’ve seen her grow in that she has become a more outgoing and communicative type of student. In the beginning, she was a young freshman, very shy and quiet. Now she has learned how to present her ideas and her thoughts in a professional way. That will do her well in law school.”

DePalma said she always knew she wanted to go to law school after college, so she tried to choose a major that was beneficial to her endeavors in law as well as pertaining to her personal interests. Although not the so-called “typical” route to becoming a law student, DePalma said it has helped her a lot.

“I think it’s been really good for me,” DePalma said. “Especially because we do a lot of writing in communications, and law school is so writing heavy. That’s why a lot of people choose to be English majors or something in that field before going to law school.

“In terms of communications, I think I’ve learned a lot of networking skills and how to talk to others, and that’s a big thing in law. Your clients a lot of the time come from when you’re out networking or communicating with other people.”

O’Neill explained that this will be highly advantageous in the law profession as the field requires lawyers to understand the communication process because many misunderstandings end up in litigation and lawsuits that could be potentially avoided by just understanding better how people communicate.

“Most people don’t realize, but big corporations, before they communicate to their internal and external audiences, very often run the communication pieces by an internal legal department or an external law firm to ensure they’re meeting all the government regulations and compliances,” O’Neill said. “So, Kayla would have a chance to bring together her love of advertising and her love of law into one career.”

Taylor Sedney, a fellow senior advertising communication major, recalled when she first met DePalma in a class sophomore year and became friends with her right off the bat. Since then, their friendship has only grown and she says she is not surprised by the offers DePalma has received, given the work ethic she has witnessed.

“Kayla has always been a very driven, hardworking person, so it’s no surprise to me that she’s been so successful with pursuing a career in law,” Sedney said. “I think her ‘non-conventional’ path to law school as a communications major just shows how she is capable of so much in life. She’s always been a hardworking and driven person as I said, so it’s been really cool seeing her pursue a different path.”

DePalma has been a part of many marketing and advertising efforts in the Erie area, including an integrated marketing campaign chosen for the I-HACK building and program. She has also completed a social media internship with the Sunflower Club, a social club and restaurant in downtown Erie.

In addition, she completed a marketing fellowship for the Erie Downtown Partnership, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reviving the city of Erie. Through these opportunities, she was able to meet highly regarded figures in the area such as John Persinger, CEO of the Erie Downtown Development Corporation, and Rebecca Styn, owner of Room33 and Blind Tiger Spirit-Free Cocktails.

DePalma recognizes that she had a lot of help getting to where she is today.

“I think the faculty and everyone I’ve met at Gannon were so helpful and I don’t think it would’ve happened without them,” DePalma said.

While O’Neill helped DePalma gain confidence within the classroom, she also had Peter Agresti, director of the pre-law prgram, to assist her in applying to law schools and scoring high on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).

DePalma set aside time for at least five LSAT practice questions a day and spent her weekends from morning into the night taking practice exams and analyzing the LSAT exam book. She said this part of her law school preparation was the most crucial.

Furthermore, DePalma said Gannon provides important opportunities to students like herself as she was able to have Court of Common Pleas judges John Trucilla and Stephanie Domitrovich as instructors in class.

But outside the classroom, her brother has been her biggest support.

“I think he even picked out the public relations and advertising majors,” DePalma said. “He pointed them out in the course catalog, so I probably wouldn’t be on the path without him.”

She mentioned that her dream job is to open a firm with her brother, who is currently in his third year of law school at Duquesne University. She also acknowledged that she has a way to go before she gets to that point, but she’s ready to face it head-on.

As DePalma continues her education, she leads by example and presses on in hopes of a larger reward – that in the form of happiness and another degree closer to what she wants in life.


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