Courtni Weaver, L’21, had seen the portrait of civil rights activist and lawyer Oliver White Hill hanging in the hallway in the University of Richmond School of Law. Today, she’s the recipient of a fellowship established in his honor – and is putting that fellowship to good use with Central Virginia Legal Aid.

The Oliver White Hill Foundation Public Service Internship Program provides a summer of funding for up to five law students who are interested in pursuing employment in government, non-profit, or public interest work – specifically, in a program that “strengthens Virginia citizens and communities.” Weaver is doing just that at the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society, where she’s working on cases involving domestic abuse, family law, eviction, bankruptcy, employment, and consumer law. A main take-away for Weaver is the need for more public service attorneys. “There are so many [in need], and we can’t touch them all,” she said. “[The experience] has kind of opened my eyes as to what’s going on right here [in Richmond].”

Weaver works under managing attorney Doris Causey – and as the first African American to serve as president of the Virginia State Bar, “she’s kind of a big deal,” joked Weaver, and “has been a great example and positive role model.” Law school was a “big adjustment,” explained Weaver. And finding a mentor – particularly another African American female attorney, like Causey, who had experienced similar career challenges – was an important component to have as part of her legal education, Weaver explained.

Mentorship is another benefit of the Oliver White Hill Fellowship. A couple times each month, “A member of the Foundation reaches out and wants to hear about my experience,” said Weaver. So she’s meeting with seasoned attorneys over coffee or lunch, unpacking her internship experience, and getting the opportunity to ask questions about their own career paths and challenges.

As incoming president of the Black Law Students Association, Weaver is also looking for ways to bring those same mentorship benefits to other law students and perhaps even high school students. “That’s something I’m passionate about,” said Weaver: “Giving back to other students.”

It’s students who are at the heart of the Oliver White Hill Fellowships, too. “The foundation definitely cares more about students as people,” said Weaver. “They want to find someone who wants to be helped and is willing to work hard, and just help and encourage them.” Lucky for Weaver: “I’m a sponge, and I want to soak it all up.”