Annual Dickinson Law ceremony celebrates achievements of graduating students

April 24, 2019

CARLISLE, Pa. — For the third year, Dickinson Law students, family and friends gathered inside the Apfelbaum Family Courtroom and Auditorium to celebrate their heritage, unity and academic achievements, as well as those who supported them throughout their educational journey, during the annual Donning of the Kente ceremony.

Hosted by Dickinson Law’s Black Law Students Association (BLSA) on Friday, Apr. 19, the ceremony honored eight class of 2019 graduates: Charlene Akrasi, Chantel Briggs, Jada Ector, Tenniqua Forde, Caroline Koko, Yudelkys Rodriguez de Vargas, Vin Samuel and Sarah-Julie Tchokouani.

Each were donned in the traditional Kente cloth by BLSA’s President Bre Bennett, class of 2021, and Vice President Iman Woodyard, class of 2021. Origins of the Kente cloth date back to 12th-century Africa, typically associated with the Ashanti people of what is now Ghana. Weavers used vibrant colors and complex designs to portray the cloth’s profound philosophical meaning.

Tchokouani, one of eight students honored, noted her appreciation for the ceremony.

“It’s important to celebrate students of color like this, and ensure that everyone is properly represented and celebrated," said Tchokouani.

Carlesha Green Halkias, class of 2005, served as the ceremony’s keynote. Halkias, who is a member of Dickinson Law’s adjunct faculty, has extensive experience in disability law and has held positions including executive director of the Office of Social Equity for Shippensburg University, staff attorney at the Disability Rights Network in Harrisburg, and deputy city solicitor for the city of Harrisburg. She has provided assistance to clients about their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Family Medical Leave Act, Rehabilitation Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Fair Housing Act, Medicaid, Mental Health Procedures Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Having once been in their shoes, Halkias shared her advice with the students.

“As you leave this academic bubble of value elevated in status because of your J.D., know that it will also act as a weight. People will look to you and people will look at you while trying to figure out how it defines you," she said. "What matters most, however, is that you look at yourself along the way and through your journey, and that you honor yourself through your work and how you live your life.”

The ceremony is annually held in honor of Paul E. Waters, class of 1959. Waters made history with his firm, Shumaker, Placey, Smeltz and Waters, as the first attorney of color in Dauphin County to become a law firm partner, and the first African-American to serve as counsel to the Pennsylvania State Senate Judiciary Committee. In addition to his many legal accomplishments, Waters was also the founder and editor of the U.S. and Pennsylvania Judicial Reporters, both monthly periodicals of caselaw.

View photos from the ceremony here.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 25, 2019