A young man from the Bay Area recently graduated from Berkeley after three years of law school. His achievement is the latest milestone in a decades-old legacy, which began with his mom—at the very same school.
After receiving his certificate, Savelle Jefferson posted a remarkable pair of “How it started vs. How it’s going” pictures on Twitter—one, the most recent, is of him in cap and gown; the other shows his mom onstage during her grad in 1995, also at Berkeley, holding a 6-month-old baby in her arms.
That baby was Savelle.
More than two decades later, the younger graduate captioned a tribute to his mom in that tweet: “26 years ago my mom carried me across the stage as she graduated from @UCBerkeley.
“26 years later I was blessed enough to walk across the same stage as a @BerkeleyLaw graduate.”
Savelle was born while his mom, Veronica Piper-Jefferson, was still in graduate school studying for her master’s in social work. Unable to afford childcare, she often attended lectures with her baby boy in tow.
Savelle literally grew up shuffling around the Berkeley campus with his mom.
“My mom frequently talks about pushing me in a stroller from Berkeley Bart station up the hill to get to class,” he told Fox.
Eventually, Veronica received her degree, and the image of her with her son onstage was immortalized in a photo.
“If you go to the hall on campus that houses the MSW program, my mom is seen in the 1995 class photo holding me,” Savelle said. “I’ve been on this campus since I was a kid and I always dreamed of one day attending.”
Veronica, who, in addition to her master’s, has a bachelor’s degree in social welfare, went on to work in child welfare services in the Bay Area. She and her family eventually moved to Fairfield-Vacaville.
Later, her son would build upon the legacy she started by fulfilling an ambition she could not.
“The irony of the entire situation is that my mom actually applied to the joint MSW/JD program and was denied to the law school so she just pursued the MSW,” he said.
With his mother as his inspiration, Savelle followed in her footsteps. Upon being accepted into Berkeley Law, he sent a confirming screenshot to her—while she was at work—and she was overcome with emotion.
“When I first found out I was admitted, I texted her a screenshot of the admittance and she ended up having to leave work because she was crying so hard,” he said.
Despite facing numerous challenges on his journey, Savelle excelled in his studies, winning numerous awards, including the Allen E. Broussard Phoenix Fellowship and the Tyrone McGraw Memorial Scholarship by the Charles Houston Bar Association.
He also contributed to supporting students of color—like himself—to help them surmount some of the obstacles they face pursuing a career in law; he helped to organize the school’s largest ever For People of Color Conference.
“My journey to law school was very very tough and I struggled immensely to find resources and fund the high costs associated with the admissions process,” he said. “So I planned this event with the intent to ease some of these barriers for other students of color who may be interested in entering the profession. This was one of my main goals while attending Berkeley Law.”
Meanwhile, the family’s connection with Berkeley doesn’t end with Savelle; his younger brother, Myles Jefferson, is also attending the university; he is currently a freshman and a Cal Bear.
“We are a UC Berkeley family through and through,” Savelle told the station.
“My mom has consistently been the number one motivator for me in terms of education. She always encouraged me to do well in school and to be a change agent,” he added. “I truly owe this degree to her because I wouldn’t have made it this point without her, 26 years later I finally gave her the JD she always wanted.”
Savelle will be taking the California Bar Exam in July; he hopes to go on to work for global law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP.