The Board of Director provides leadership for Blueprint JD as well as fiscal and operational oversight. The Board of Directors is comprised of practicing attorneys, current law students, and recent graduates.
K. Suzette Akins
K. Suzette Akins hails from Newport News, Virginia. She completed her Bachelor of Arts degree summa cum laude from Howard University in the spring of 2008 in Political Science and a minor in economics. In 2011, Ms. Akins received her Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia School of Law.
Ms. Akins’s keen interest in policy and politics led her to work on Congressional campaigns and pursue internships in the federal government after graduation from High School. She interned twice in the Congressional office of Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03) and worked for two years as an intern in the Energy Information Administration in the Department of Energy. As an undergraduate student in Washington, DC Ms. Akins played an active role in get out the vote efforts during the 2004 U.S. Presidential election by volunteering regularly with an organization called Black Youth Vote that encouraged young students to vote or request absentee ballots prior to Election Day. Similarly, as a law school student, she worked as a poll monitor in Newport News, Virginia area for the Lawyer’s Committee on Civil Rights’ Election Protection efforts during the 2008 Presidential election.
Ms. Akins’s public policy interests have fostered in her a desire to serve her community. She is currently on the board of the First Baptist Church Denbigh Outreach Center, a non-profit that provides housing assistance to individuals enrolled in higher education and assistance in the areas of financial planning and family health. Ms. Akins also provides mentorship through the Diamonds and Pearls mentorship program, a faith based mentorship that pairs at-risk young women in middle school and high school with female mentors. Ms. Akins is a member of the distinguished Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Ms. Akins is a member of the Board of Directors of Blueprint JD, Inc, a nonprofit organization committed to improving diversity in the legal profession.
Chioma Chukwu is a member of the Board of Directors of Blueprint JD, Inc, a nonprofit organization committed to improving diversity in the legal profession.
A native of Covina, California, she received her Bachelor’s of Arts in Political Science from the University of California, Riverside and her Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. In 2012, she received her Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia School of Law. While at University of Virginia, Ms. Chukwu served as an editorial board member of the Virginia Sports and Entertainment journal. In her spare time, she volunteered with the Virginia International Students and Scholars Program (VISAS), designed to help prospective international graduate students improve their language and intercultural communication skills.
Prior to entering law school, Ms. Chukwu worked as a Grantmaking Community Project Intern with the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, a privately-funded not-for-profit organization that conducts research on and advocates for greater accountability, transparency and focus on social justice in the philanthropic sector. She later served as a substitute teacher with Fairfax County Public Schools.
Ms. Chukwu is committed to serving marginalized populations through education. A proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., she continues to uplift students through its public service projects. Ms. Chukwu is a past director of the Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial Competition for the National Black Law Student Association (NBLSA).
Lydie M. Essama is a member of the Board of Directors of Blueprint JD, Inc., a nonprofit organization committed to improving diversity in the legal profession. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania in 2005. After two years as an international paralegal, Ms. Essama attended the University of Virginia School of Law from which she received her Juris Doctor degree in 2011.
Born in Yaounde, Cameroon to a Cameroonian father and a French mother, Ms. Essama has demonstrated a constant commitment to diversity and community service. Since obtaining her Bachelor’s degree she has been an active member of the Penn Secondary School Committee, recruiting students, conducting interviews with prospective students, and serving as an ambassador for the University of Pennsylvania.
While at the University of Virginia School of Law, Ms. Essama occupied a number of leadership positions. She served on the William Minor Lile Moot Court Board as the semi-final and final round presiding justice, on the Editorial Board of the Virginia Journal of International Law ,and in chapter and national leadership positions with the National Black Law Students Association. Ms. Essama was also a member of the Latin American Law Organization’s Board and a student organizer for the Law School Foundation’s fundraising push. Her other achievements include receiving the Bracewell & Giuliani LLP Best Brief Award, successfully completing the Bucerius Law School International and Comparative Business Law Program in Hamburg, Germany and working in the law offices of Nicholson y Cano, Abogados, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Today, Ms. Essama is serving as a law clerk to the Honorable Richard D. Bennett of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland. In her spare time, she uses her knowledge of French, Spanish and German to bring people of different communities together and is also actively involved on both the alumni committees of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Virginia School of Law.
Melinda Hightower is the founder of Blueprint JD, Inc, a nonprofit organization committed to improving diversity in the legal profession. A native of Detroit, Michigan, earned her B.S. from Cornell University, her M.B.A. from the University of Chicago, and her J.D. from the University of Virginia. While at University of Virginia, Ms. Hightower served as a Dillard Fellow, a student instructor in the legal research and writing program. She was also named a Ritter Scholar and inducted into the Raven Society, the oldest and most prestigious honorary society at the University of Virginia.
Prior to entering law school, Ms. Hightower worked as a human resources professional with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in New York City; World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) in Stamford, Connecticut; and Morningstar, Inc., a leading provider of independent investment research headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Over the course of her human resources career, Ms. Hightower was active in her community and volunteered with numerous youth empowerment groups including the New York Urban Debate League and Scholarship Chicago.
Ms. Hightower continued her service commitment as she began her legal career, focusing on issues that impact communities of color. She has an avid interest in voting rights and was a field leader for the non-partisan Election Protection Coalition during the United States’ historic 2008 presidential election. She reprised her role for the national mid-term elections in 2010 and will do so again for the 2012 election cycle. In keeping with her personal commitment to community service and academic excellence, she is a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Ms. Hightower chairs the Advisory Board of the National Black Law Students Association (NBLSA) and is an associate with a major international law firm in Washington, DC.
Edwin Lindo is a recent law school graduate with a focus in intellectual property and business law. A native of San Francisco, California, he received his Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California. In 2012, he received his Juris Doctor from the University of Washington, where he served as the Chair of the UW Law Black Law Students Association and as the Executive Comments Editor for the Pacific Rim Law & Policy Journal. Upon entering law school, Mr. Lindo was awarded a Minority Corporate Counsel Lloyd M. Johnson Fellowship. He is also a Council on Legal Education Opportunity (CLEO) Fellow.
Professionally, Mr. Lindo has gained substantial experience by serving as a legal clerk at two Fortune 100 companies, Microsoft Corp. and Amazon.com. Feeding his desire to give back, he took part in the Street Law program, where he had the opportunity to teach a law course at a local underserved high school. Throughout his law school tenure, he also made it a point to mentor underserved students and assist them with college and graduate school applications.Before law school, Mr. Lindo was an NCAA Division I athlete at the University of the Pacific. However, after two years he made the difficult choice to end his athletic career and pursue other avenues. Not knowing exactly what he would do, Mr. Lindo ventured into student government, eventually throwing his hat in the race for student body president. In 2009, he became only the second Latin American student body president in the school’s 158-year history. Pacific is where Mr. Lindo began his mentoring – helping a handful of inner city, middle and high school students appreciate the potential and reality of a college education.
Mr. Lindo is truly excited to be a member of the Board of Directors Blueprint JD and looks forward to furthering the organization’s mission: Building Diversity in the Law.
Art Steele is a member of the Board of Directors of Blueprint JD. Art was born and raised in Monrovia, Liberia. Her family migrated to Reston, Virginia during the Liberian Civil War. Art received her Bachelor of Science from Virginia Commonwealth University. In 2009, she received her Juris Doctor from American University Washington College of Law. While at the Washington College of Law, she was a member of the Moot Court Honor Society where she won several competition awards, including Best Brief. She was selected a Mussey-Gillett Scholar, a merit based award named for the founders of the Washington College of Law. In 2009, she was named the graduating Rising Star by her local Black Law Student Association (BLSA) chapter.
Prior to entering law school, Art founded a nonprofit whose mission was to provide school supplies to children in Monrovia Liberia. Art also volunteered with Catholic Charities as an ESL teacher. Art continued her commitment to service as a law student by serving as a Senator on the Student Bar Association. As a second year law student, Art was appointed to the Executive Board of BLSA as a 1L Resource Coordinator. In this role, she mentored first year law students through the rigors of law school and gathered and disseminated information regarding professional development and diversity opportunities.
Art currently practices tax law at a major law firm in Washington, DC.
Jasmine Wade is a member of the Board of Directors of Blueprint JD, Inc, a nonprofit organization committed to improving diversity in the legal profession. Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Ms. Wade is a third year law student at the University of Virginia School of Law. She graduated from the University of Virginia in May of 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts double majoring in Political and Social Thought and African and African American Studies. While an undergraduate, Ms. Wade was involved in several campus organizations including the Young Women’s Leadership Council, Honor Committee, University Judiciary Committee and Office of African American Affairs Peer Advisor Program. She was also inducted into the Theta Kappa chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated.
Since her matriculation into law school, Ms. Wade has been active in a number of organizations on both a local and national level. She served as the First Year Representative and Community Service Chair for the Black Law Student Association and on the Editorial Board of the Virginia Journal of Criminal Law. She has also sharpened her advocacy skills, serving on both the National Trial Advocacy Team and Extramural Moot Court Team. As a member of the moot court team, she competed in the 2011 Susan J. Ferrell Intercultural Human Rights Moot Court Competition and the Georgetown Law White Collar Crime Mock Trial Competition. Ms. Wade has also served on the board for National Black Law Student Association as the Judicial Advocacy Specialist. In this position, she worked with the Juvenile Law Center in their submission of the Miller v. Jackson and Jackson v. Arkansas Amicus Curiae brief to the Supreme Court of the United States.