Franklin determined to reach career her goal
MILLENIAL OF THE YEAR
By St. Clair Murraine
Tawanna Franklin’s mind was made up.
She was dead-set on a career in law since childhood.
She also knew she didn’t have a desire to attend a Historically Black College.
So she thought until she ran into a North Carolina A&T track and field coach while representing her high school at a state championship meet on the Greensboro campus.
Good as she was as an athlete, she got an offer to join the Aggies team. But didn’t settle on A&T until after she thought about it long and hard.
With a little nudge from her parents, she decided to become an Aggie, but only as a student. The decision changed her perception of HBCUs and a lot of what she grew up hearing about Blacks.
“I went to orientation and I loved it,” she said. “I thought it was the best thing in the world. Oh, my goodness.”
Now in her third year of law school at FSU, Franklin plans to become a corporate attorney. Part of her goal is to use her profession to impact how Blacks are treated in the courtroom.
As president of the FSU Black Law Students Association, Franklin who organized a chapter of the association at A&T, is having a profound impact, said Lydia Florence, advisor for the FSU association.
Franklin has been so influential that she was a unanimous choice for the honor of the Capital Outlook’s Millennial of the Year.
“She is a very proficient student who always goes beyond the call of mentoring,” said Florence. “She is always willing to help and she is a fantastic leader.”
Franklin has proven her leadership as president of the Black Law Students Association, being the driving force behind several initiatives that include a mentorship program through the Barristers Association. The FSU students have also put in place a mentoring program with the Hatchett Pre-law Society at FAMU.
“She definitely brought a lot of experience in and was able to give us more knowledge and the kinds of things we didn’t know,” Florence said.
Franklin recently demonstrated her courtroom savvy when she scored a win at the Southern regional of the Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial Competition. That qualified the FSU association for a berth in the national championship in Brooklyn, N.Y., against 17 other associations this week.
Franklin developed leadership skills early. She was a member of the Youth Leadership Council in her hometown Greenville, N.C. Her extracurricular activities also included being a student government leader at Aden Griffin High School.
By the time she began pre-law classes at A&T, Franklin already had courtroom experience. She participated in Teen Court.
Academically, she was prepared for the grind of college life. Her parents saw to that by frowning on grades lower than an A. It became habitual.
But she couldn’t get used to seeing Blacks outnumbering people of other races on trial when she worked for a law firm while in college. That became the impetus for her decision to focus on corporate law.
“It was very uncomfortable walking into the court room; seeing people you went to school with,” she said. “You recognize the potential in people and at some point you see individuals that have the capability of being anything they want to be or doing anything they want to do, then throw it all away by doing small offenses.”
She recalled seeing that first hand when one of her high school classmates was sentenced to five years in prison. “He was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” she said.
She described her former classmate as being from a different community than the one where she grew up in being the only Black family in the neighborhood. The outcome left her certain that she didn’t want to become a criminal defense lawyer.
“For me it’s just about creating a space in a different area where I could put people like myself in those places by being a voice and by utilizing that power or role that I have,” she said. “So hopefully I can influence people who respect me and the position that I’m in to bring about changes in my community.”
Franklin is very capable of doing just that, Florence said.
“I see a bright, wonderful future,” she said. “I see her going places because anything she puts her mind to she is going to complete it with accuracy. The sky is the limit.”