From Tough Times to Elite Law School

Posted June 04, 2024, 2:30PM

Christian Worley was homeless and spouse-less when she decided to earn a master’s degree in public administration at North Carolina Central University(NCCU). Two years later, she has a full-ride scholarship to attend a top law school. 

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, and raised in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Worley married at age 19 and attended the University of North Carolina in Wilmington where she majored in criminology and minored sociology. 

She graduated in 2020 – “I was a Covid graduate” – and found employment as a trainee with the state of North Carolina, where she mentored juveniles. 

That same year, she started Economic Justice for African Americans, initially based in social media. “I started it in the summer 2020, at the height of the George Floyd and Breonna Taylor murders,” she said. 

The nonprofit sought to educate people on civil rights and economic inequality between Black Americans and other groups. Later, the organization held protests and did some lobbying. Today, its membership is almost 900 people. 

While Worley liked working with young people for the state, she was unhappy with the department and gave notice in May 2022.  

That same month, her husband left. Without an income or a spouse to depend on, she struggled. 

“I had to move out of my apartment because I couldn’t afford to live there anymore,” Worley said. “I contacted several charities and nonprofits, but no one had any funding available.” 

A sister who had just returned from Germany with her military husband let Worley move in. That left Worley to figure out what to do next. 

“I wanted to feel good again,” Worley said. “I decided to go back to school (although) I didn’t know how to pull it off.” 

Through research, she found out about a joint program at NCCU where she could earn both a Juris Doctor and master's degree in public administration in a shortened amount of time. “I also wanted to experience an HBCU,” she said. 

With scholarships and financial aid – mostly in the form of loans – she moved to Durham in August 2022 and shared housing with two previously unknown roommates. 

She graduated summa cum laude from NCCU in May 2024 with a master’s in public administration but decided to pursue law school elsewhere. In May 2024, she was one of ten people awarded a Marshall-Motley Scholarship from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The scholarship is named in honor of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and the first Black woman to serve as a federal judge, Constance Baker Motley. 

In exchange for a full-ride scholarship and professional development, recipients agree to practice civil rights law for ten years following graduation. 

“There are so many people – especially minorities – who are struggling,” Worley said. “The answer to the problem is civil rights, fighting for equality and equity. 

Worley has been accepted at the Georgetown University Law Center, which ranks No. 14 out of 196 law schools in the United States, according to U.S. News & World Report. She plans to start this fall. 

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