By Joe Snell | October 2022
One of the nation’s sole scholarships reserved for Assyrian American students pursuing a law degree has named its 2022 winner.
Ronnie Kawak, an Assyrian attending the Indiana University School of Law, was selected among applicants from across the country to receive the Kalogerakos Family Law Scholarship, a $2,500 need-based award that can be used toward tuition, books and other expenses.
“Growing up outside of the community and really trying to establish this connection, scholarships like this let me feel like I’m welcomed and I’m not somewhere where I’m not supposed to be,” said Kawak, who was born in Virginia and later grew up in Indianapolis.
The scholarship, launched last year, is administered by the Assyrian American Bar Association (AABA). The group was founded five years ago and comprises 100 members in a dozen states as well as five countries.
Adriana Rahana, a law student at the University of Illinois Chicago, was last year’s award recipient.
There are at least 10 scholarships offered by organizations across the country that are reserved for Assyrian American students, but Tony Kalogerakos, one of the founding members of AABA, felt it was important to create a need-based award dedicated to the law.
“Since we are all immigrants, we don’t always know what route to take,” he said. “It’s advantageous for any community to have more lawyers. And the current national discourse about immigrants in general makes it even more imperative that we create and supply a pipeline for legal training for Assyrians.”
Kalogerakos in the past offered the scholarship through his law firm, Injury Lawyers of Illinois, LLC. But it was important, he said, to provide the scholarship through AABA to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest so he wasn’t alone in selecting the winner.
To win this year’s award, Kawak had to complete an application form, submit two letters or recommendation and write a 500-word essay on how he plans to use his legal education to address an issue in the Assyrian community.
Kawak’s winning essay explored the history of Assyrians in establishing law and then compared it to the responsibility of Assyrian Americans in continuing this tradition.
“One thing I want to do is dedicate my career to benefitting our nation and encouraging others to do that,” Kawak said. “Experiences like this scholarship really helped prove to me that this is a community that will accept me and you.”