#MyPathToSeniorWalk: Michaela Parks Finds Home Away From Home
Second-year law student Michaela Parks knew the exact moment when she decided to attend the U of A. She was standing at the southeast entrance to campus – the stone wall at the corner of Arkansas Avenue and Dickson Street – when she said, “I could see myself here.”
Originally from Claremore, Oklahoma, Parks says she wasn’t sure what college she wanted to attend. “When I was deciding between colleges, I knew I wanted to find a balance between being far enough away from home to gain new experiences, but also close enough to home that I could visit throughout the semester.”
She said she visited the U of A “completely on a whim” during the summer between her junior and senior year in high school. She quickly realized that it was, she says, in that “sweet spot.”
Fayetteville’s charm was a big deciding factor, too. “When I visited the U of A for the first time, I was in awe of the scenic beauty and all NWA had to offer like hiking, museums and local businesses,” she says.
“It felt like a home away from my own,” she says.
Parks, who is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, soon found plenty of campus communities and organizations to be a part of, including the Native American Student Association, the Kappa Delta Sorority, the U of A Pre-Law Society and the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society.
In 2021 she graduated with a B.A. in political science and a B.A. in history, both with highest distinction.
She chose to stay at the U of A and attend law school because “I love being a part of the NWA community.”
In law school, she has added to her already impressive list of accomplishments.
She is a 2022-23 staff editor for the Arkansas Law Review and has been named as the articles editor for the 2023-24 ALR editorial board.
Last year, she was selected as a 2022 Udall Foundation Native American Congressional Intern. As such, she spent that summer in Washington, D.C., gaining practical experience with the federal legislative process and first-hand knowledge of the working relationship between tribal and US federal governments.
In fall 2022, she externed for Judge Stacy Leeds, the district court judge for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and former dean of the U of A Law School.
But what she is most proud of, she says, is reactivating the Native American Law Students Association during her first year at law school. “It was important to me that I create a space for myself and other Native law students to grow and succeed,” she says. “NALSA not only provides resources and programming for its members, but it also creates community. Being in community with other Native law students brings me purpose and encouragement.”
Parks' long-term professional goals include giving back to her community by practicing Federal Indian Law, educating the public about Native American history and contemporary tribal success, and creating free clinics to provide legal services to Native Americans living in areas with limited access to legal services.
During her time at the U of A, she has been the recipient of several scholarships, so she plans to pay that forward, too, by creating and funding a scholarship to support Native American students who want to attend college, but have limited resources.
But no matter how far she goes in life – and she will go far – the U of A and its community will always hold a special place in her heart. “Fayetteville has felt like a home away from home for the past six years,” she says, “and I am grateful for this community.”
For more student success stories like Michaela's, check out some of our previous #MyPathToSeniorWalk features: Erick Soto, Kennedy Hicks, Rachell Sanchez-Smith, Gary Jackson, Ismael Salgado, Angel Williams and others at our #MyPathToSeniorWalk website. If you have a story that you'd like told or know someone who has an inspiring story, please check out the nomination form.
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