Student Voices: Marianna’s Journey to HLS
December 15, 2021
I followed an unconventional path to Harvard Law School. I’m the first in my family to be born in the United States, I studied pre-med in undergrad, I only applied to one law school, and I never even took the LSAT. My time at HLS was not only divinely ordained, but also, simply, a miracle.
At a young age, I gave my life to Jesus Christ. At age 13, while I was reflecting on my life plans, I heard God’s voice (in my spirit) for the first time: Those are your plans for yourself, not Mine. Although God says in Scripture that He has a plan for each of us, I hadn’t consulted Him as I had developed my own. I hadn’t trusted that His plans would bring me satisfaction—I lacked faith and wanted control. But in that instance, I decided to trust Him and to surrender my plans.
But when I was 16, I gradually started to stray off His path for me. Still, He never left. At age 21, I got on my knees and repented, and God began to restore me. He revealed that it was only by His strength and by abiding in His Word that I could be free from sin and hurt, not on my own strength. I thought I was a “good person” and “free” during the past five years, but I realized that true freedom in Jesus meant that I did not have to live captive to sin. These sins were the roots of the mental and spiritual health struggles I had been experiencing. He freed me—I started experiencing love, joy, and peace every day.
Although I had completed the pre-medical track in undergrad, I began to consider career alternatives while on a Fulbright fellowship in Spain. Given my prior experience working with legal documents, I felt drawn to law school. By that time, I had learned my lesson and surrendered the decision to God.
I was thrilled upon receiving admission to HLS. While I felt God wanted to use me to advocate for those who lack a voice, I didn’t know the extent to which my own voice would be challenged during my time at HLS. To elevate the voice of others, I first needed to fight for my own.
And that is what I am learning to do at Harvard inside and outside the classroom. Organizations like La Alianza, Harvard Latin American Law Review, Christian Fellowship, Christian Union, and the Program on Biblical Law and Christian Legal Studies have all challenged and equipped me to develop my voice while also providing me with a community. I have developed relationships with Christian professors, mentors, and students. Between small groups, office hours, weekly prayer, monthly worship, and much more, I have grown and thrived at Harvard.
Finding our voice is powerful. My voice in particular does not come from me, from the news I watch, from the people I follow, or even from my friends or family. My life belongs to Jesus Christ, so I choose to allow Him to speak through me. When Jesus walked the Earth, many tried to silence Him and to stop Him from denouncing the corrupt religious leaders. They even killed Him, thinking that death would quench His voice. But when He resurrected three days later, He proved that His voice would never die. Instead, His innocent blood was spilled in the place of our guilty blood. He paid the price for our sins so that we could be free. Free from anxiety, depression, vices, anger, pain, trauma, pride, greed, and on and on. By asking Jesus to forgive us for all we’ve done wrong and by continually seeking Him, we are saved. We are set free from the pain of our past and worries of our present and future. We live forever (John 3). This good news is what my voice now proclaims.
While Harvard has challenged me to develop my voice, it has also given me abundant resources to do so. Now, there is no way I will be silent.
Marianna is a Brazilian American who graduated from Tufts University with a BA summa cum laude at age 20. At Tufts, she assembled and led a team to establish a tuition-free auxiliary nursing school in Honduras. She spent 2017-2018 as a Fulbright fellow at Universidad Camilo Jose Cela in Madrid, Spain. Currently, she is a JD Candidate at Harvard Law School, the editor in chief of the Harvard Latin American Law Review, and the Chief Operating Officer of Action for Education. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Filed in: Student Voices