Ayanna Squires

First Woman Recipient of Will County Legal Opportunity Scholarship is Named

By Rachel Barks

The second annual Will County Legal Opportunity Scholarship has found a recipient, and this year, it has been awarded to its first woman law student – Ayanna Squires, an Algonquin resident.

Squires is a driven and passionate individual, having already received her bachelor’s in criminal justice at Lewis University last May and is returning to school this fall, this time to tackle law school at Northern Illinois University.

WCBA President Tom Manzella, with Ayanna Squires and attorney Frank Cservenyak

WCBA President Tom Manzella, with Ayanna Squires and attorney Frank Cservenyak

“I really like the sense of community that people are there to help you in any way they can to grow and network,” Squires said. “I think it is awesome that different professionals and organizations are coming together for this one scholarship to help someone in their legal field.”

Squires took a gap year from school to jump into working within the legal field and get her feet wet; she is currently the 2021-2022 AmeriCorps Illinois JusticeCorps Fellow in the 12th Judicial Circuit. This is where she found out about the scholarship and waited for months for the scholarship to officially open so she could apply. Squires has a strong sense of love for Illinois, and the Will County community, and can’t see herself practicing law anywhere but her home state.

“One of the things that the scholarship will help with is building these community ties, and making sure to lean on those if I need them in law school, after law school, and while I continue to work within my community,” Squires added. “When I am a licensed attorney, I look forward to helping in any way I can.”

The Legal Opportunity Scholarship promotes a strong message of celebrating diversity within the legal community. Squires supports this and expresses how much this means to her as a black woman entering the field.

“It is really telling of the people that they see this issue within the legal community, a lack of diversity, whether that be with a lack of people of color in the legal field, gender ratios, anything of that sort,” Squires said. “I like that they tailored the scholarship to help an underrepresented minority in the legal field, and that helps me a lot as a black woman entering this field; I don’t have any lawyers in my family or anything as a first-generation student.”

Recipients of the Will County Legal Opportunity Scholarship, an incoming first-year Black or Latino Law Student, can earn up to $46,000 to assist in paying for their legal education by practicing law in Will County after graduation, which will allow them to further insert themselves into the community.

This year Rathbun, Cservenyak & Kozol, LLC joined an annual collaboration with the Will County Bar Association, the Black Bar Association of Will County, Latino Bar Association of Will County, Will County Women’s Bar Association, and Spesia & Taylor Attorneys at Law to sponsor the 2022 Will County Legal Opportunity Scholarship.

Frank Cservenyak of Rathbun, Cservenyak & Kozol, LLC sees great value in giving back to the talented, upcoming professionals of the legal community, which is why they joined the annual collaboration this year.

“This broadens the types of lawyers, from all walks of life, instead of just a narrow walk of life,” Cservenyak said. “And I think that’s good so that we have across-the-board representation of ideas, backgrounds, and all different kinds of cultural experiences when we’re using the law and practicing law.”

Squires looks forward to beginning law school and being open-minded to what area of law she will practice specifically. She plans to take part in valuable internships and externships, taking advantage of what opportunities come her way and developing through those in preparation for graduation and the bar exam.

“One of the most joyous parts has been telling my friends, my family, my coworkers, and just sharing the good news; I’m so very grateful for this opportunity,” Squires said. “Thank you so much to those that created the scholarship and for taking action to have it move forward.”