In addition to being an OIP Litigation Fellow and a Student Ambassador, volunteering her time to speak with prospective students about her UC Law experience, Ally recently accepted the role of Sub-Regional Director for MWBLSA, organizing students from law schools across Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, and Indiana. She has held three events this year, one general assembly connecting law students across the region, and the two other events specific to discussing relevant issues of discrimination facing Black law students. She has no intention of slowing down her involvement in the new year.
With the clock still ticking on her decision to attend the exoneration, Ally looked at her phone to read a new text message, “I took you everywhere,” her mom wrote back.
Being selected as a 1L OIP Fellow was one of the biggest factors in Ally’s choice to attend UC Law. With its 20-year history and nationally recognized model, she was drawn to the possibility of working on the ground for system-change as an OIP Fellow. Culbertson would be the fourth person in 2022 to gain freedom as a result of OIP’s work, and the 38th client since its inception. She didn’t want to miss this climactic moment.
“Lawyers are trying to work for change in our system,” she said. “There are so many people who say that our criminal justice system is broken. I think it's shattered at this point…I am so happy to be doing this kind of work and helping people with real lives and real stories, highlighting when the criminal justice system made a mistake.”
Hastily packing her bags with court documents, Ally threw in a few toys and snacks before heading to daycare to pick up Eli. The two got on the road together with time to spare.
When she applied for law school, she knew times like this would come—that juggling everything might get exhausting and tough decisions as a mother would need to be made. But with a determined attitude and a supportive community at school, she has found solutions that work for both her career pathway and her family.
Later that afternoon, as Ally watched her son play Hot Wheels with a group of exonerees, she realized that day was no different than all the other times Eli sat on her lap while she studied for her LSAT, or hung back while she introduced the keynote for the 2022 OIP-u conference (an Ohio Innocence Project conference for undergrads), or sang with her in the car on the way to daycare before a big exam.
“Other people's perceptions of you are not going to contain the type of person you can be. I had a lot of people who told me that I wouldn't graduate from college. A lot of people who told me that I wouldn't be able to be the mom that I want to be,” she said. “I think I've been able to successfully prove them wrong. I have the most amazing son. And I've got to share this experience with him.”
“He’s been here through everything,” she said. “He's in law school with me.”