Sometimes teachers inspire students. For Ashley Pointe, her students inspired her to earn a law degree.
Pointe, who is scheduled to graduate from the School of Law at North Carolina Central University (NCCU) on Dec. 9, taught earth sciences for five years at Riverside High School in Williamston, North Carolina.
“Because I taught science, we could dive into forensic science,” Pointe said. “We would listen to the true crime podcasts and talk about different trials. One day a student said ‘I think you would be a good lawyer.’”
At first, Pointe dismissed the idea.
“Law school seemed a bit far-fetched,” Pointe said. “I am older than traditional students, married and have two kids.”
Then one of her students got into legal trouble and was sent to prison. That student is now six years into a ten-year sentence.
Some of her other students also found themselves with legal challenges.
“The community we are a part of, it’s not conducive for certain types of students to thrive in,” Pointe said. “It really inspired me to do something more. If I pursue a legal career, I can help them navigate the legal process.”
Pointe spoke to her husband, her in-laws and her parents before resigning as a high school teacher and enrolling at NCCU School of Law in summer 2021.
It was not easy.
Her commute to law school from Monday – Thursday was four hours per day. While driving Pointe would re-listen to class lectures, YouTube videos and podcasts on legal topics.
In order to study, she spent less time with family and skipped social occasions and vacations. Her parents helped by watching her kids – ages three and four when she started law school – on weekends.
She spoke to her advisor, Professor Lydia Lavelle, J.D., about the difficulty of balancing family life with law school. Lavelle suggested Pointe take summer classes. She did, allowing her to graduate one semester early.
Pointe is scheduled to take the bar exam in February 2024. Pending passing, in March she will start as an assistant public defender for North Carolina, working in Beaufort and Martin counties.
“If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you . . . that’s me!” Pointe said.