By Brian Edsall
Opportunities come in many different forms. Some people focus on personal achievements, such as academic or vocational pursuits, while others may value interpersonal enrichment, such as practicing mutual respect and fair treatment of others. For senior Ife Benjamin, both of these aspects are essential to the life he hopes to live.
Treating every person with a common level of decency is a belief which was instilled in Ife from childhood. “How you treat people really matters,” Ife said. “You just never know who you’re going to meet and what they’ve been through.”
Ife’s moral principles as well as his devotion to learning and desire to succeed can be attributed to his parents and other role models in his life.“My parents placed an extreme emphasis on education—but in a positive way. From an early age, they taught me that education was a way to bridge the gaps between the social, racial and economic gaps throughout society,” Ife said.
Ife’s mother and aunt have been his greatest sources of inspiration. “When I get tired, I think of how my mother just got another degree a couple of years ago,” Ife said. “She’s 40 years old. If she’s able to do that, then I should be able to work hard too.”
“My Aunt Noahleen came to the United States from Sierra Leone, Africa without her parents when she was 18 years old,” Ife continued. “Now she’s a doctor and has her own private practice.” Ife’s parents were also born in Sierra Leone, although they came to the United States as children.
The examples which his family has set throughout their own lives have motivated Ife to strive for near perfection in all of his endeavors. His determination and ambition has set him on the path to earn Magna Cum Laude, or high honors, upon graduation from Marist College. Furthermore, he will be attending law school starting in the fall 2017 semester.
“Going to law school will be one of my greatest personal accomplishments,” Ife said. “There are people I’ve met throughout my years here who wanted to go to law school, but fell off that path for various reasons. I’m proud of myself for sticking with it.”
Ife’s passion for political science and law has led to remarkable achievement throughout his years at Marist. He interned with the U.S. House of Representatives during the summer of 2016, working with Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, the representative for New York’s 18th district which includes Dutchess County. Ife was one of the few students selected to represent Marist College at the nation’s capital.
“It was the coolest experience ever to be in D.C.,” Ife said. “During my time there we were trying to find unfair practices in the financial sector. I researched about how women and minorities were discriminated against because of race and gender.”
Ife’s experience with the House of Representatives has left a lasting impression on him. He hopes to attend law school in D.C. and has applied to George Washington University, Georgetown University, American University and The Catholic University of America. He hopes to eventually practice business or corporate law in Washington D.C. as well.
Ife also held an internship position with The Law Offices of JoAnn Ruchlewicz in his hometown of Reading, Pennsylvania which heightened his interest in business law. “There’s a negative connotation associated with those who practice business law,” Ife said. “People assume that they go in it for the money, but I don’t look at it that way.”
“I would take pride in representing the big companies. It’s an American Dream to rise from having nothing and being able to create such a large corporation,” Ife continued. “I would like to represent people who have been successful because I would like to be as successful as them one day.” His main objective when entering the field of business law is to curb unfair financial practices. “I know as a lawyer I’m not going to be able to win every case or help every client, but what I can do is give my best effort. Any little impact matters,” Ife said.
In addition to his internships, Ife has gained valuable experience by working at the Marist Institute of Public Opinion (MIPO) where he began during his freshman year and quickly rose to the highest position of head coach during his sophomore year. Though Ife has achieved great success, he was extremely disappointed with the scores he received on his law school admission tests (LSAT). “I really put in a lot of studying,” Ife said. “It’s definitely frustrating to have thought I did much better than I did.”
Despite his disappointment, Ife continues to approach life with unwavering positivity and passion. He believes that capitalizing on even the smallest opportunities will inevitably lead to success. “You just have to be ambitious,” Ife said. “You have to continue working, regardless of what may happen. You would be surprised at how willing people are to help you. Simply ask and be bold.”