Attorney and Rhodes alumna Shayla Purifoy ’03 continues to be involved in the Rhodes community beyond graduation and is a mentor to psychology major Micah Leonard ’15. As a 2013 Summer Service Fellow, Leonard began working at Memphis Legal Services where Purifoy assists victims of domestic violence in civil legal issues. When Purifoy found out that Leonard speaks Spanish fluently, Purifoy saw an opportunity to increase efficiency in her workplace by bringing Leonard in as a translator and an opportunity to offer valuable work experience to a student of her alma mater.
Purifoy, who majored in urban studies, says that her own experience at Rhodes is what inspires her to reach out to current students. She attributes the service opportunities that were presented to her as a Rhodes student to be a contributing factor in her decision to pursue a nontraditional area in the legal field. As a result, she feels a responsibility to “keep the cycle of helping the community going and going” by offering similar opportunities to students now.
Leonard says working with Purifoy and Memphis Legal Services has been a valuable experience and has filled her “with excitement and determination for the future.” She also notes that Purifoy has taught her life lessons beyond the knowledge she has gained regarding the legal field. “This year has been unforgettable and going to work is what I look forward to all week,” says Leonard.
Leonard acknowledges that “there is a lot of support within the scholastic departments at Rhodes.” However, she feels that having a mentor offers a different kind of reinforcement, claiming that “nothing is like being able to be a peer with someone who you can look to as a role model.” Purifoy treats her like a colleague rather than a subordinate, allowing Leonard to work alongside her fully.
In addition, Purifoy extends her assistance and expertise to other Rhodes students as a volunteer attorney coach to the Rhodes Mock Trial team. Leonard also participates in Mock Trial, and Purifoy hopes to help Leonard’s experience in the legal field becomes double-edged, “allowing her to apply what she learns in mock trial to real court situations and vice versa.”
To other alumni hoping to give back to Rhodes students, Purifoy advises “be active in alumni events, specifically request for Rhodes interns, and reach out to students that you think may benefit from your help.”
(information compiled by Rhodes Student Associate Sophie Anderson ’15)