Ruky Tijani

Ruky Tijani, B.A.’11

“A Victor, not a Victim”

By Greta Petry, M.A.’01

ukayatu “Ruky” Tijani was 5 when she learned about famed jurist Thurgood Marshall’s work in the landmark Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education case. She has dreamed of becoming a lawyer ever since. That day drew closer last May 15 with the Honors College student’s graduation summa cum laude from the University at Albany and her acceptance to law school at the University of California, Berkeley.

Her divorced mom raised Tijani; her older brother Tommy; and her developmentally disabled brother Abraham, now 17, all alone. Losing Tommy, who had Down Syndrome and died while Tijani was still in high school, “feeds my passion to succeed,” said the Coney Island, N.Y, native. Although Tijani, a Resident Assistant, Project Excel mentor/tutor and library work-study at UAlbany, sometimes couldn’t afford to go home for the holidays, she would send money to her mother, who lost her job. “As a mentor and a tutor, it is important for me to tell students who are just going through difficulties: ‘I’ve been there. And I’m a victor, not a victim,’” said Tijani, who plans a career in entertainment law,
civil rights litigation and constitutional law.

She finds a way to make things happen. Tijani once confided to her math professor, “I have no money to afford the book for class, but if you loan me the textbook during your office hours, I’ll get that A.” She did.

As campus coordinator for the Law School Admissions Council, Tijani presented workshops each semester about the law school admissions process and resources for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. She was vice president of Phenomenal Voices, a multicultural performing arts group, and served as public relations director for the Precizun step team.

Tijani, who graduated with a 3.99 G.P.A. and a dual degree in political science and Africana studies, ranked in the top 1 percent of the Class of 2011, won two Spellman awards and was a member of three national honor societies. She credits Makisha Brown and Chris Fernando of Project Excel (officially the TRIO Student Support Services program), as “pivotal to my academic success. I became the person I am because of all the resources available to me at this University and all the people who truly believed I could be somebody, not because of my obstacles, but despite them.”