U.S. Supreme Court

How Justice Thomas is helping a once-homeless nursing student achieve her goals


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Courtesy of SCOTUS.

Dakota Garza is pursuing a nursing degree at the University of Portland with scholarships covering all of her tuition, thanks to Justice Clarence Thomas and the organization he supports, the Horatio Alger Association.

Garza was 2 when her father died of a drug overdose, and she was 8 when she and her mother became homeless, the Oregonian reports. At age 16 she sought emancipation from her mother and was living alone by her senior year of high school, supporting herself with a job at Old Navy.

She won a $20,000 college scholarship from the Horatio Alger Association and agreed to a dare at the group’s 2011 conference in Washington, D.C.: She would ask Justice Clarence Thomas to join her group at their table. He agreed.

Thomas gave Garza his contact information, and she emailed him after the conference to report that she would attend the University of Portland, the Oregonian story says. Thomas called the president of the Catholic school to find out about her financial situation. The university president said scholarships did not cover the entire $37,000 cost of tuition of room and board, and Thomas asked if the school and the Alger Association could make up the difference. A deal was worked out.

Thomas also introduced Garza to a family that hired her as a nanny.

Thomas is scheduled to speak at the university on Thursday. Garza, a junior, will have dinner with Thomas and his wife. According to the story, Thomas’ “hardscrabble youth … resonates with Garza. For her, he’s a role model for refusing to let a rough beginning determine your life’s course.”

In an interview with the newspaper, Garza recalled one thing Thomas said to her during the Horatio Alger lunch: “You are fortunate to have your misfortunes.”

Hat tip to How Appealing.

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