Ah, UVA Law School. I’ll be the first to admit that we’re often a little harsh on this particular law school, but that’s only because it’s so damn easy to do. When we write about UVA Law, the jokes virtually write themselves.

Some of the very best scandals around have come from this law school — from alleged sodomizers to transcript thieves to racial raconteurs to Confederate celebrants, we’ve literally seen it all from UVA Law.

But let me tell you, it’s a rare day when we’re able to tell students from this school to pop their collars with pride, and we actually mean it without a hint of sarcasm. Today we’re going to congratulate a student from UVA for an accomplishment that everyone with student loan debt wishes they could achieve.

This young woman appeared on live television and was handed thousands of dollars to pay off her loans, just for being a decent human being. How much was she able to walk away with?

So many people who go to law school claim that they want to help people, but they wind up getting so swept up in the allure of cold hard cash from prestigious Biglaw firms that they cast those dreams aside. Dana Tapper, a third-year student and a first-generation college graduate, did not, and for that, she was rewarded generously. One of her best friends, Kathryn Cragg, wrote to Ellen DeGeneres to tell her all about Tapper’s generosity in life, even though she herself is “maxed out on student loans.” Here’s more from UVA Law:

[Tapper] spends much of her time outside of classes volunteering to help children transition out of juvenile detention centers in Virginia. She is hoping to work on behalf of children in her future career as a lawyer.

“I want to be an advocate for kids,” Tapper said. “I’ve met some of the most incredible people. They have just this incredible untapped potential. I would like to help them realize it.”

Tapper had no idea that she was going to Ellen’s show to be showered with money; her friend somehow convinced her that she was going to appear to talk about some silly dance videos she’d posted on YouTube. So how much money did she get? To find out, watch this clip from the Ellen DeGeneres Show:

Holy crap, if someone handed me $20,000 just for being myself, I’d probably have the exact same reaction. Thank God I wasn’t at ATL headquarters when I watched this the first time around, because I cried like a bitch (yes, I do have a heart). Being “maxed out on student loans” myself, I knew how relieved she must’ve been.

Yeah, I know, when you’ve got six figures of law school debt, $20,000 seems like chump change, but to be rewarded with such a sum simply for being a good person is enough to make it seem like a much larger debt’s been lifted from your shoulders. You can’t tell me you wouldn’t be a happier person with a brighter outlook on life if something like this were to happen to you.

I had the pleasure of chatting with Dana this morning, and here’s what she had to say:

Do you feel comfortable telling me how much loan debt you’ve got?

DANA: I’ll put it this way: loans are the only source of funding that I have, and I am completely in debt from law school. I’d say that it’s approaching the six figure range.

Are you going to use all of the money you received to pay down your loans?

DANA: Actually, no. Right now, my immediate goal is to use some of this money to pay for the bar exam. Before the show, I had no idea how I was going to be able to pay for a bar review course. I didn’t want to take out another private loan on top of the rest of my debt. This has been a real life saver for me.

Have you managed to find a job yet?

DANA: I was pursuing several public interest fellowships, but that didn’t quite pan out in the way I expected. I still don’t have a job for after graduation, but I’m looking each and every day.

Are you having difficulties even though you go to a T14 school?

DANA: Yes and no. UVA has been very, very supportive, especially those from the school’s Public Service Center. Because of their help, I haven’t been as terrified about not having a job as she should be. The school is really working hard to help everyone who’s interested in pursuing public interest careers find a job that suits them.

Do you have any advice for law students who are trying to get public interest jobs?

DANA: Please feel free to reach out to me. I encourage everyone to be passionate and true to themselves. I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s true. I’ve always wanted to save the world, and now I have an avenue to do so thanks to law school. If this sounds like you, then figure out what you love, and love it enough to accept everything that comes with it, including the debt. I’ve never questioned my decision to do public interest work even once.

Dana Tapper is a wonderful, kind-hearted person, and we’d like to congratulate her for continuing to stand up for what she believes in. Before we got off the phone, Dana told me that “once you’ve seen the impact you can have as a zealous advocate who doesn’t give up, it’s definitely worth it.” This is a girl who really loves what she does, and she hopes to be able to give troubled children the chance that they so desperately need to excel.

Doesn’t this sound like the type of person you’d like to hire? Help Dana Tapper to save the world — give her a call, give her an interview, give her a job! She’s an inspiring person, and she more than deserves it.

UPDATE (3/1/13 12:05 p.m.): Dana just informed us that BarBri’s president, Mike Sims, has offered her a free bar prep course, which she thinks is “amazing!” She says that the response to our post has “been incredible,” and that this is by far, “one of the coolest things that has ever happened” to her. Congratulations from everyone at Above the Law, Dana. You’ve definitely earned all of the excellent things that are coming your way.

UVA Law Student with ‘Kind Heart’ Wins $20,000 on Ellen DeGeneres Show [UVA Law]


comments sponsored by

19 comments (hidden for your protection) Show all comments