She is 19 years old and has just finished her law studies. Now she wants to fix America’s education system
Haley Taylor Schlitz wants to change a system that has tried to hold her back. The 19-year-old will be the youngest graduate of Southern Methodist University’s (SMU) Dedman School of Law, a private school in University Park, Texas.
According to research done by her family, she is also the youngest black student to graduate from law school in the United States. Now she wants to use that education and her own personal experiences to reform the public school system.
“All quality schools, obviously, should be equal because we want all of our students and all of our next generation to get a great education and move our country forward,” Schlitz said. As is Arrived guest host Helen Mann.
“What we can’t do is part of our country move forward and part can’t because of the education they’ve been given, based on absolutely nothing.”
Taylor Schlitz was set to graduate on May 13, but she had to fight and eventually leave the Texas public education system to do so.
racism in the classroom
Growing up, Taylor Schlitz’s mother believed that her daughter excelled as a student and wanted to get her into classes for gifted students. But the school refused and even mentioned the possibility of retaining her to repeat a year.
Prior to that, Taylor Schlitz said she faced racism and microaggressions in the classroom. During a play called “Northern Aggression”, as the only black person in the class, she was cast as the only black slave in the production.
“My parents lost it and they were like, absolutely not. So they transferred me to the Northern family as an abolitionist. So I guess that’s better, question mark? But I don’t know really why they decided to do this in the first one was a really bad idea,” Taylor Schlitz said.
She also recalled classmates making racist comments to her in class.
“The other students would look at me and say, ‘If we were living in this time, you would be mine.’ And of course, as a 10-year-old girl, what do you say? she says.
So, in 5th grade, Taylor Schlitz’ mother pulled her out of school and started homeschooling her.
“She’s like, there’s no way I could do worse than this, and she took me out,” Taylor Schlitz said.
While homeschooling, Taylor Schlitz says she was able to focus on her weaknesses to become a well-rounded student. She says the setup has also allowed her to improve skills such as time management and self-responsibility.
And she flew away. By age 13, she had completed all the requirements to complete high school. By age 16, she had completed her undergraduate degree in education at Texas Woman’s University.
She is now a graduate of Southern Methodist University at 19. The CBC has contacted SMU for comment.
bring about change
Even after going through school, Schlitz is far from done. She’s going to spend the summer studying for the bar exam, and then she wants to pursue a career in education policy.
“Some of the biggest issues I see in public schools, especially around gifted and talented students, dual enrollment, AP and honors courses…are equity and access. really not a lot of diversity in these programs,” Taylor Schlitz said.
“I should be able to graduate from law school at 19, even if I stayed in the public school system, and I couldn’t have. Absolutely not.”
She says if she had stayed in the public school system, she might have been able to skip a grade or two, but probably wouldn’t even have started law school at this point.
And she has a number of different paths she’s considering, including working for an elected official, a nonprofit, a school district, an education law firm, or teaching.
She thinks there are two ways to impact the education system.
“One is from inside the system, being a teacher of color, being this good influence, creating this good learning environment for students. And the other is from outside the system, being someone who changes the cogs and foundations of the education system,” she said.
“I feel called to teach, but I would also like to serve the community in any way I can and really change the education system.”
Written by Philippe Drost. Produced by Kate McGillivray.