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Catelyn Cook: Youngest-ever grad of Cleveland-Marshall College of Law

This year at age 20, Catelyn Cook made history by being the youngest student to graduate with a law degree from Cleveland State University’s Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. She began work on her bachelor’s degree from CSU in Criminology and Political Science before she graduated as valedictorian from Valley Forge High School in Parma in 2017.

An honors student throughout  high school, undergraduate and law school, Catelyn shared that she has been fortunate to have a photographic memory: she can read something, quickly grasp the concept and retain the information.  

“That changed somewhat during law school; I definitely needed to study more and take more detailed notes,” she laughed.

At the beginning of her freshman year at Valley Forge High School, Catelyn began taking courses at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C). She completed her associate’s at age 16 and was well underway in completing her bachelor’s degree before graduating from high school. She credits faculty and staff at both Tri-C and CSU for their collective support and encouragement.

“Both Tri C and CSU have wonderful instructors, professors and staff who went above and beyond to provide guidance and support during my journey,” she noted. “Tri C was an amazing steppingstone and resource that helped me advance to CSU and bring me where I am today.”

“I think my accomplishment is proof that if you have the drive and willpower to do something, you can accomplish what you set your mind to, regardless of your age or life circumstance.”

Some additional insights into her academic journey

What inspired you to go to law school?
Catelyn: I always knew that I would pursue a law degree. I chose to major in Criminology and Political Science so that I would have a good grasp of the workings of the justice system before beginning law school. I want to use my degree in law to make a difference in people’s lives and work in areas that make an impact on the overall welfare of the community.

You are currently working on a Master’s in Counseling at CSU, can you tell us more about that?
Upon graduation from CSU Cleveland-Marshall, I decided to take the next step in my educational journey and enrolled in CSU’s School Counseling master’s degree program. I realized that I wanted a career where I could learn about people and their emotions in a way that would allow me to change their lives for the better, and my law degree would support those goals as well. I plan on graduating in Fall 2022.

Tell us more about the impact your family has had on your achievements.
My mom, younger sister and friends have been my biggest source of inspiration and support. My mom has always encouraged us to study hard and reach our goals through education. I have very supportive friends as well. There is no way I could have accomplished my degrees without having a strong support system. I am very grateful.

Were your peers in high school understanding and supportive of your college path?
Some were understanding and some weren’t, but I had plenty of encouragement, so the ones that were not encouraging didn’t matter. And it also shed a light on who my true friends really were, so that was a very good thing.

Were you able to remain connected to high school, even though you were also a college student at the time? 
Catelyn: Yes, I don’t feel like I missed anything. I was active in boxing and karate, and I participated in several high school clubs and projects. I attended all major high school events and dances. Even though my high school experience was different from many, it wasn’t that out of the realm, because more and more high school students are now taking college-level courses.

What is your hope for people who are reading this?
Catelyn: I think my accomplishment is proof that if you have the drive and willpower to do something, you can accomplish what you set your mind to, regardless of your age or life circumstance.