By Jamie Shoaf, ‘11

Immediately after graduating from Thomas Dale High School, Nickerson decided to follow his dream of becoming a lawyer and began taking paralegal courses at John Tyler Community College.

Nickerson’s desire for law began in high school, sparked by an advanced placement government course that has had a profound influence on him. “My [AP] Government teacher also happened to be a paralegal, and this class really motivated my interest in law and politics as a career pursuit,” he says.

Rather than undertake the more traditional path followed by many high school graduates who pursue an undergraduate degree from a traditional day-school program, Nickerson decided to take the road less travelled into law—and save time in the process.

After enrolling in the paralegal studies certificate program at John Tyler Community College, he built up enough credits to transfer into a continuing studies program in just a few months, taking as many as five classes at a time.

Growing up in Chester, Virginia, Nickerson has always been familiar with the reputation of the University of Richmond. And he began to meet professors who were teaching concurrently at John Tyler and Richmond’s School of Continuing Studies.

“Speaking with professors [at John Tyler Community College], they spoke very highly of the Richmond paralegal studies program with SCS and told me it would be an excellent building block to receive my bachelor’s degree if I continued a legal education path.”

Faced with the limited number of paralegal studies programs in Virginia, other than online programs that do not carry as much weight as a degree from the University of Richmond, he enrolled in the School’s Paralegal Studies program in January 2011.

“It really came down to wanting a University of Richmond diploma and all of the prestige along with it. Having already built up a great deal of credits, it made perfect sense for me to enter the paralegal studies program with SCS rather than as a traditional undergraduate student,” says Nickerson.

While he has not directly interacted with others who choose to blaze their own path into paralegal studies directly out of high school, Nickerson’s professors have strongly encouraged his decision. Anne Marie Morgan, an adjunct professor with the School, has had a profound impact on his education.

“Professor Morgan brings an excellent perspective to the table in her Virginia Government and Politics class. As State Capitol Correspondent for Virginia Public Radio in Richmond, her hands-on experience gives myself and other students a visceral look into politics.”

In comparing SCS classes with “traditional” undergraduate classes, Nickerson especially enjoys practical professors and experiences such as those with Anne Marie Morgan. “One of the coolest parts about being an SCS student is that you have a lot of practitioners teaching classes rather than being in a bubble of academia.”

Outside of the classroom, Nickerson has found many ways to stay involved with the Richmond community. Very recently, fellow students elected him onto the School’s Student Government Association (SGA) board.

The board’s president, Karren O’Connell, speaks highly of Nickerson. “He already wants to serve as president; the only reason he didn’t get in during the recent election is due to SGA by-laws that you have to serve on the board for a stated amount of time before serving in a leadership capacity. I am predicting his nomination for next year, however!”

Off campus, Nickerson is deeply involved in community service, a fact recently described in a Richmond Times-Dispatch article detailing his experience assisting a disabled family friend, Renee, to complete the Monument 10K race.

Nickerson looks to continue with these races into the future, as he strongly supports the Massey Cancer Center that benefits from the Monument race.

“My mother was recently diagnosed with colon cancer, and I could not be more grateful for their help with her. I wanted to help people in a similar situation and the race appeared as a great outlet for this. I’m looking for a partner to assist during a race in the future, although I just hope I can keep up with them as I almost felt that Renee was guiding me more than I was helping to guide her.”

Whether in the news, on campus, or in the classroom, the Richmond area is becoming very familiar with Jimmy Nickerson. As he looks to continue his education beyond SCS into law school, Nickerson will continue to provide memorable experiences for those around him as he takes the path less traveled.