It is her sparkle and energy that are at once so apparent. Sade Calin exudes both. And on a recent evening, there was good reason for this Willingboro native, now 25 and a resident of Maple Shade, to be celebratory.
At a meeting of the Burlington County Bar Association, Calin was given the Schlesinger Award, a prestigious scholarship presented by the family of late Superior Court Judge Jan M. Schlesinger, to honor his distinguished legacy as a lawyer and jurist. He died in 2000.
Schlesinger came to this country as a child with his family as refugees from Nazi Germany, and went on to an academic career at Tufts University and the University of Chicago Law School.
As a practicing lawyer in Burlington County, Schlesinger was highly regarded, and while on the bench, he was admired for his intellect and industry.
His widow, Ruthann, of Moorestown, made the presentation, which is awarded annually to a particularly outstanding New Jersey law school student.
The scholarship began with a bequest in Schlesinger's will, and has been sustained by additional donations made to the Burlington County Bar Foundation.
"I was so honored and thrilled to receive this award," said Calin, who has a deep appreciation of what it means to get help along the way in life. By the time she was 12, Sade (pronounced "Sha-Day") already had a bank account, so determined was she to start thinking about her future education.
"I even worked in paving construction during high school," she recalled, "saving my $5 an hour pay."
This young woman also served as a program aide for local Boys and Girls Clubs, initiating a homework program for youngsters.
At Willingboro High School, she was deeply involved in reigniting the school newspaper that had been languishing and had not published for several years.
The first in her family to graduate from college, Calin distinguished herself at Rider University, graduating summa cum laude with a double major in journalism and global/multinational studies.
"I've always found myself juggling a lot — I guess that's just the way I live my life,'" said Calin, who somehow managed to edit the Rider News even as she was initiated into honor societies at the university.
The decision to become a lawyer was part of her evolution, which included reaching out to people and organizations that fulfilled her own longing to make a difference. From interning at the Mercer County Prosecutors Special Victims Unit to working with Assemblyman Troy Singleton, D-7th of Palmyra, along the way, Calin set and met daunting goals.
"I wanted to experience a bit of everything I could and can," she said from the perspective of a rising third year law student at Rutgers-Camden.
Case in point: while her undeniably most challenging course was first year Torts, she pushed herself to master a rather important professional art. "It was in that course that I learned to think like a lawyer, and even though I initially hated that class, it ultimately became my favorite."
Among her current accomplishments are juggling a summer associate position at the Ballard Spahr law firm in Cherry Hill; serving a legal internship at the Liebling Malamut law firm in Cherry Hill in 2014; externing for U.S. Magistrate Judge Joel Schneider at the Federal Courthouse last semester; and her upcoming commitment to the Journal of Law and Public Policy in her last year at Rutgers Law School.
Add in her significant involvement as a Marshall Brennan Fellow, her leadership of the Black Law Students Association, the Women's Law Caucus and the Association of Black Women Lawyers, among many other groups.
So what keeps her going?
"I think I've found what I was meant to do," she said. "I also think my professional passion will probably be in the world of public interest and pro bono work.
"And I also really want to go to court, although I know that these days, not all lawyers are necessarily litigators."
Yes, it's a huge order. And there's still another year of law school and the bar exams to face.
In a profound example of understatement, Calin sums it up this way:
"I like to be busy. And if it means being overwhelmed sometimes, well, that's fine."
From Schlesinger's widow come these simple but heartfelt words.
"Jan would have been so proud to know Sade. She is in every way the kind of recipient he was seeking."