Haley Taylor Schlitz, Youngest Woman & Black Woman in The History of This Nation to Get a Law Degree
Updated: May 11
Meet Haley Taylor Schlitz! Only one song fits her, "I'm Every Woman," because it is truly all in her! She possesses one of the most intellectually gifted brains in our world and is kind, gracious, and well-mannered. Haley's journey is quite impressive.
Among the issues students of color face in our public schools regarding gifted and talented programs, Haley Taylor Schlitz is an author, public speaker, and respected thought leader.
Upon graduation from law school in May of 2022, Haley became the youngest Black American in U.S. history.
After graduating high school at age 13, Haley attended Tarrant County Community College's Northeast campus as an undergraduate. As a transfer student, Haley was accepted to over 15 undergraduate institutions after one year at TCC. Several colleges received her, including Xavier University of Louisiana's Pre-Medicine program, Oklahoma State's Honors College, Spelman College, University of Texas at Dallas, Grambling State University, Tuskegee University, Bard College at Simon's Rock – The Early College, Texas Woman's University, and others. I had the privilege of interviewing this amazing woman. Here's what she shared.
Hi Haley! Hi Gina.
I am honored to speak with you today. Thank you so much!
You're welcome. There's so much I want to know about you, but let's start with your origins. Tell me about your formative years. Yes, of course. I was born in Los Angeles, and my family moved to Texas when I was around seven or eight. As a second grader, I attended public school. So, life was pretty normal.
Awesome! Now Haley, when you were a young girl, did your parents notice a natural tendency toward law and a desire to help others? I explored law as an undergrad when I was about 14 years old. Like my mother, I had aspired to become an ER doctor.
Wow! That’s awesome! Can you tell me about your parents? Yes. My mom is an ER doctor, and my dad is a campaign manager in PR and marketing. They're busy bees.
This is true. You come from an educated and ambitious family. Yes.
Let's talk more about your childhood. A young genius plays with what kind of toys? Outside of education, everything that I do is entirely normal. For example, when I was younger, I played with stuffed animals and watched cartoons on VCR machines. Of course, technology has advanced since then.
Oh yes, I remember those. They are dinosaurs now. (laughs) Yes. (laughs) I also enjoyed playing video games with my brother, watching "Anime," and reading. I'm the bookworm of the family. Drawing and spending time with my family were other things I enjoyed doing. In general, I've always led a relatively regular life. People sometimes find that surprising.
Yes. I'm one of those who find your childhood fascinating because you have such a genius mind. Haley, did you attend public school? Yes, I attended public school until I was in the fifth grade.
When you were in public school, did your peers bully you for being academically brilliant? Yes. I always got straight A's in school. While in class, I often answered or asked questions. Due to my intense interest in the material I wanted to learn, I got bullied.
Therefore, in fifth grade, I began to behave in a way I thought would help my social status and make friends. Consequently, I cared less about school and my performance. Some people felt that girls shouldn't be clever or good at math. They're only meant to be pretty.
We were in the 5th grade, so it wasn't about boys but more about looks, sparkles, unicorns, or whatever cliche I was expected to be interested in. Because I was interested in school and performing well, some people considered that weird or unusual. Eventually, I found my group. Although some bullied me, I had people who were nice and friendly to me, also.
That's unfortunate that children bully other children, but I'm glad you found your support system. You have a brother. Is he younger or older than you? He’s younger than me.
Does he consider you a role model, and is he academically brilliant? Yes, he is also academically brilliant. He is 16 years old and in his second year of his master's program. He's doing his thing.
Are you kidding me? Wait a minute! Your mother gave birth to two geniuses? (laughs) My mom worked hard.
That is awesome! Thank you. Yes, my brother is brilliant, and he's a hard worker. I like to think I played a role in that, and he sees me as an inspiration.
You also have a sister. Yes, my sister was adopted from Ethiopia, and she's 14. I think she's just starting her second year of college.
Unbelievable! Three of you! (laughs) Love it! Thank you. Yes, we are all hard workers. As a result, I hope anyone who hears my story, or the stories of my brother or sister, will see that they can do it too. All they have to do is work hard and take advantage of the opportunity. They won't be us, but they'll have success in whatever they're doing.
Yeah, you guys are like the X-Men family, for real. (laughs) That is so awesome! You guys are all super amazing! In addition, I am sure you can help if they encounter situations similar to those you faced in school. Their big sister is a great source of support for them. Absolutely!
Haley, what formula did you use to stay focused on your education and not let the party life derail you as you advanced in your teenage years? I think it's multifaceted. One element of it is the people I surrounded myself with weren't teenagers who wanted to party.
My social group consists of kids my age, either online or deliberately chosen by my mom.
I like your mom! She made sure you stayed focused. Thank you. Yes, I did speech debate, fencing, piano, and harp. My mom deliberately chose all those activities. My peers were equally focused on whatever they wanted to accomplish. As a result, we each had a positive impact on one another.
How do you like to spend your leisure time? Video games are one of the fun activities I enjoy with my peers. In my spare time, I like to spend time with my friends in my friend group. I have been to parties, and attending an occasional party is OK, but it becomes destructive when you begin to value it more than other elements of your life.
Although public school works for many people, my educational goal was deliberately designed. That support was helpful for my socialization, not being a distraction but being beneficial to my development.
Awesome! So, tell me, what field of law do you want to enter? And I don't say it correctly. Is that correct? You got it, yes.
That’s wonderful! I am very excited about going into educational policy. My goal is to stay in Texas while achieving those goals. That so that it will be great.
Wow! Tell me about that. Yes. "Educational policy" is writing policies regarding education, how it functions, the goal, the direction it's moving in, and the foundation of it.
I am specifically interested in writing policies that affect public schools. During my undergrad years, I did a lot of self-reflection, which helped me change my major from chemistry to education and my career goal from becoming a doctor to becoming a lawyer.
I was fortunate to have parents who sought other educational options besides public schools. Unfortunately, the crazy schedules of many parents prevent them from enrolling their children in this type of education. So, I'm so glad I could take advantage of these opportunities.
I should have been able to become a lawyer at 19 through the public education school system, but we all know that wouldn't have been possible. I was extremely fortunate.
God truly blesses you and your entire family! Your story so inspires me. Thank you. You know, Gina, sometimes I wonder how many other students' families don't know that they don't have to take "no" for an answer or how many people don't have a way to make the answer "yes" for themselves. This is why I want to go into educational policy and write policies that make our public education system more personalized and conscious of our country's diversity.
Well said. Haley, do you know what your current IQ is?
Yes, so the last time I took an IQ test, it was on a scale up to 150, and I got a 149.
Haley, that's awesome! I don't even think mine's at a two. (laughs) Over the years, I might have bumped up a notch or so to three. I'm kind of happy about that. No! (laughs)
I always tell people that you don't have to be the brightest egg in the crate as long as you know somebody that is; that's all that matters because you can call them. In other words, you don't have to be the doctor to get better when you're sick; you go to a doctor who knows how to fix your situation, and off you go. Problem solved! (laughs) Yes.
Haley, I hear that you've made black history. A little birdy told me. (laughs) Can you tell me about that? Yes, when I graduated, I became the youngest woman in the history of this nation to get her law degree and the youngest black person in the history of this nation to get a law degree.
You get a standing ovation from me! Congratulations! Thank you! It's a title that I hold very proudly. It was never the goal when my parents pulled me out of public school, homeschooled me, started college, or even when I started law school. It wasn't the goal.
On the contrary, the goal was to get my degree and make a difference, but it's a title that I hold with great honor and is very humbling. I can't wait until it's broken.
Are you affiliated with an official organization? I do not belong to an official organization, but I do a great deal of public speaking across the country. Orlando and Georgia were two of the states I visited last year. I also participate in a lot of virtual conversations. Whenever I have the chance, I want to share my story about what I've learned with anyone who will listen, hoping they will be inspired.
Have you started a mentorship program? Not my own, but I am a mentor to several students I've met and spoken to along the way. Several classrooms and students have requested my role as a mentor; therefore, I talk with them weekly. Some text me with questions regarding their next steps and other things.
Have you ever been on Ted? I haven't, but my brother has.
Wow! That's great! You'll be there soon, I'm sure. Was your life story ever considered for a movie? Several people have approached me about being in their movies, but never a film about me. Nevertheless, I thought that was great! Another great thing that happened to me is that when I was in Indianapolis for my "Sorority Centennial," there were a couple of different ways that they highlighted me.
How did they honor you? They have their 100-year piece of artwork. Not only am I in it, but they have this video that represents all of the Centennials and everything that the sororities have done, and I'm in that too. So, it was an honor and humbling at the same time. It was just incredible.
From an independent filmmaker's perspective, your story would be a phenomenal story to tell. In most movies, there's so much violence and sensuality that we need more positive stories of triumph and inspiration, such as yours. Thank you very much.
My pleasure. While at a speaking engagement, has anyone ever approached you with something so profound that it touched you most resoundingly? Yes, there are so many that it's difficult to name just one. However, the most recent one was in Orlando last year. A woman approached me and said God had moved her to be in the audience to hear me that night. Several students came to me after speaking in their classes and told me they wanted to be attorneys. They mentioned that they didn't know of any black female attorneys, and if they did, only a few, and that was only the famous ones. Before speaking with them, they didn't know how to achieve that goal, and after talking to them, they had a better idea of how they could reach it, so that made me feel good. Some have even started crying, which means so much to me that I could inspire someone to fulfill their dream.
Haley, I believe you know when you're walking on the path God called you to be on when things like that happen. That's one of the best feelings to know that your journey, story, and choices impact someone's life significantly. Yes, It's so humbling.
I can imagine so. Was there ever a time when your expectations of yourself exceeded your abilities, leading to frustration? I don't think there has been. It's normal to feel overwhelmed or stressed sometimes, but I've never felt overwhelmed to the point of breaking. Since being pulled out of public school to be homeschooled, I have always been able to stay engaged, interested, and curious.
I've always been in that perfect zone because I've been gifted with the opportunity to move at the pace I needed to. Even when I would get stressed, it was not to the point where it needed to be corrected, or I didn't feel as though I was in a space I was not ready for or not right for me. On the contrary, I've always been in a space that's right for me. Sure, there are moments where, like anybody, you get stressed but not to the point where I felt like something needed to be fixed.
Awesome! So, what are your current educational goals, and where do you see yourself in the coming years? Well, Gina, I am all done with my education. I have my JURIS doctorate, and we are done with that part of my life.
I'm so proud of you! Yes! Thank you!
Haley, can you explain what a JURIS Doctorate is for those who need to become more familiar with that term? A legal doctrine. It’s a doctorate in law.
Do people call you doctor Haley? They can, but nobody calls a lawyer doctor. It's just not done. My mom is a medical doctor, and you call people Ph.D. doctors. Still, nobody refers to a lawyer as Dr. Usually, the term used for a lawyer with a doctorate is "Esquire" instead of "Doctor."
Awesome, now where do you see yourself in 2023?
I will teach AP government and politics to high schoolers at a private school here in Texas. I hope to be comfortable in the classroom and confident in my teaching material. I'm also hoping to communicate effectively and provide an environment for my students that allows them to thrive. So, I want to be a good teacher doing what I want to do, and not just good in the generic sense, but doing the work I want to do.
You talked about your passion for education and writing education law. Do you ever see yourself going because of your love for academics going into politics? I do. I have considered it. Anybody who has heard me talking knows that I wanted to be on the Supreme Court at one point, and at another time, I wanted to be President. So, I have considered it for a long time, not only because my dad's a campaign manager but because I've been passionate about it since I was young. And so, yes, to answer your question, I am interested in going into politics. While I am less committed to being President than I once was, I might be interested in Congress, government, or something where I can be impactful. I have no idea what position, but being an elected official in politics is a definite goal.
Yeah, I am so proud of you! Through Christ Jesus, all things are possible. Whatever His will is for you, it will happen indeed. Your willingness to make yourself available is excellent, so well done! Last question, Haley: What advice would you give those aspiring to follow your path? Yes, my emphasis is on helping others find their path. I want them to know they can build their destinies, and I hope to assist many in doing so. This is what I enjoy doing. Their approach may look completely different from mine or similar in their building, but I want to inspire someone to be explorative.
That may involve some advocacy to make sure that everybody has equal opportunities and equal tools to work with, but it's a good mindset to have. This is a saying that I always try to keep in mind when navigating my daily life, “You happening to life rather than what's happening to you.” That’s for the younger people.
Those who have already made up their minds and have already chosen their paths can easily change their minds and reroute their pathways. That's more than OK.
The reason some students are apprehensive about going to college is that they fear that they won't find themselves or that that's not the right major for them, but it is more than OK to choose a major and then realize halfway through that you don't like it and change Your mind, that's more than OK.
As life changes and changes, you have different dreams and goals. I don't have any kids right now, but one day when I have kids, my goals will change. Right now, I want to save money and be able to buy a house. Someone else's goal might be to get a job where they can work less or more to pay for their kids. So, life changes, and you change, so it's more than OK for you to change with it and for you to change your goals. So, I hope that my story serves as inspiration.
Well said. It's a blessing and privilege to talk to such a fantastic woman as yourself. It feels great to be speaking with a potential president one day. We don't know what God has in store, but I think you will do great things on this earth. Speaking of paths, I'm so glad our paths crossed. I pray that God will continue to bless your journey, your brother, your sister, and your family. I pray that God will bless your hands' works according to his will. I pray that God will keep you and your family safe during this time, and I want you to know that I'm incredibly proud of you. I am rooting for you, and I'm honored once again. I'm so grateful. Thank you so much for this time. Thank you for having me.
All of Haley Taylor Schlitz's photos are courtesy of Haley Taylor Schlitz