Scholarship helps student advocate find balance in law school: Carolina Suazo encourages others to find opportunities

Carolina Suazo J.D. '17

Carolina Suazo J.D. ’17

By Kai Su

Carolina Suazo J.D. ’17 is dedicated to service.

Entering law school with an undergraduate degree in psychology, Suazo wanted to utilize her education to affect change in the area of juvenile justice. Events such as the Andrea Yates trial and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting were greatly impactful, motivating her to pursue law school.

“I wanted to share with the legal realm what psychology was about and bring my expertise into the legal field,” Suazo said.

Between graduating from the University of West Florida in 2012 and starting at Stetson University College of Law in 2014, Suazo worked as a paralegal and yoga teacher. While researching and applying to law schools, she learned about Stetson’s advocacy program. She liked what she saw.

“I wanted to be part of that legacy of professionalism that Stetson is known for,” she commented.

Suazo, who instructed weekly yoga classes while at Stetson, believes maintaining a balance between mind and body is crucial to succeeding in law school. Her leadership role as president of the Student Wellness Society allowed her to give back, and she is glad to have been able to hold a space for people to manage stress and take care of their mental health through yoga.

Likewise, Suazo believes her background in psychology has helped her communicate with all types of people.

“My acquired knowledge in the science of human behavior, relationships and cross-cultural communication have been key elements and skills needed to effectively relate to laypeople in a jury box,” she explained.

A self-described kinesthetic learner, Suazo said she learns by doing, watching and mirroring, which is another reason Stetson’s advocacy program appealed to her. Suazo was a member of the Dispute Resolution Board and Mock Trial Team.

Suazo received the Judge Raphael Steinhardt Family Public Interest Scholarship during her second year at Stetson and the Professor Lee Coppock Trial Team Scholarship during her third year. The scholarships, she said, provided the opportunity to invest in her education, including multiple clinical opportunities.

Suazo completed two externships and two Certified Legal Internship Clinics while at Stetson: the Children’s Legal Services Externship in the Attorney General’s Office; the Criminal Appellate Externship with the Honorable Judge Thane B. Covery; the Child Advocacy Clinic in the 6th Judicial Circuit, Public Defender’s Office; and the Tampa Prosecution Clinic at the 13th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office.

“The gracious scholarships I was blessed to receive gave me the boost I needed to enroll in the hands-on practical opportunities Stetson is so well known for,” said Suazo. “Without the help of donors and scholarship, my successes may not have been as stellar or even possible.”

Suazo was hesitant early in her law school career to attend a private university because she and her family did not have the funding for tuition, but through her diligent academic work and willingness to pursue scholarship support, she made it possible.

Following commencement in May, Suazo was intent on completing the remainder of her LL.M. in Advocacy part time while pursuing a full-time career as an assistant state attorney or assistant attorney general, performing prosecutorial or dependency work.

Suazo encourages students who are hesitant about seeking scholarships to not be afraid, to not feel vulnerable and to not give up trying – because someone will listen.

“To be humble, you have to put your pride aside and ask for help when you need it the most,” concluded Suazo, a first-generation American and the first in her family to graduate from law school. “Every student who has received a scholarship had the humility to share their story, and every donor listened.”

(This article was originally published in the Fall 2017 Lawyer magazine) Read the full issue here.