Summer start or summer camp?

Photo by Ashley Golledge

Daily, things in the world and at the University of Kansas School of Law are changing. With frequently updating and changing news and innovative ways of learning being cultivated by our professors in this time of uncertainty, there is one consistency, the friendship and bond among my section of classmates.

Wanting to continue momentum from my undergraduate program, I elected to begin my first year of law school early — in the summer. Five days after I graduated from an undergraduate degree program at KU, I started my law school orientation. As first-year law school students, the 19 of us have navigated many trials together. Some of the things we navigated were simple, like learning where the best study spots are in the library or what lunch hour meetings are providing food. But, we have also navigated very serious ordeals together. The way that our section has bonded reminds me of friendships I created in my youth at summer sleepaway camp.

I went to sleepaway camp out of state for eight weeks most summers of my youth. Spending a large amount of time together daily, away from our parents always made people become fast friends. As young campers we learned how to accomplish basic tasks together. This has been profoundly replicated in the relationship among my summer start section at KU Law.

The 2019 cohort of Summer Starters participate in KU Law’s annual Bluebook Relays competition on October 25, 2019. Photo by Meg Kumin/KU Marketing Communications.

When we entered Green Hall for our first day in May 2019, a majority of us were strangers. Within minutes of mingling with one another, I could tell that I would be deeply impacted by the rest of the summer starters. Many of them would become good friends and trusted confidants. It was a good thing that we seemed to regard and respect one another so highly, because we were about to spend a large amount of our time together essentially learning to speak a language that was foreign to us. In our first week of classes, our group message operated as a way to remind one another our daily assignments but also serve more seriously to help keep out-of-towners in the loop as to dangerous weather headed our way. In following weeks, any question a student had about class was always answered timely and completely.

As a non-traditional student with a different prior life experience than most of my cohort, I have found that experience to be valued and appreciated in the classroom with my small section. So many of us do come from differing places prior to law school. There are parents; college athletes; people with legal experience; students from other colleges in Kansas and out of state schools; students that were in the work force prior to law school; and students that have differing interests and opinions. Much like summer camp, this previous life experience helps in the classroom, it helps us to see differing perspectives, and helps us to learn and view things in a way that can alter a person’s world view. Adapting and understanding another person’s life experience will help us to be impeccable legal practitioners.

Like summer camp, we were required to traverse tests prior to our peers. This helped us to gauge vital law school skills, like, how each of us best creates an outline or prepares for exams. We also learned about each other’s strengths and limitations in a nearly empty building over the summer and learned how to use that knowledge to positively impact the entirety of our section.  We have rallied around one another as members of our cohort became dog parents, or accepted summer internship positions, and have comforted one another in times of grieving. The genuine bond we have still continues to grow ten months after our first introductions, and our group chat is always a place for clarity and assistance. Much like summer camp experiences continue to impact me many years later, I am certain that my experience as a summer starter will be a time I fondly revere throughout adulthood. 

— By Heddy Pierce, a 1L from El Dorado and a KU Law Student Ambassador