Graduate of Midstate high school first black woman elected to head Harvard Law Review

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A hometown graduate is making a name for herself before she’s even out of law school. She’s the first black woman ever elected president of the renowned Harvard Law Review.

ImeIme Umana’s former teachers at Susquehanna Township High School aren’t really surprised.

“I’m sure the word has spread by now,” Elena Charles said. “Everybody knows.”

As a faculty advisor, Charles knew Umana through the student’s leadership roles in Key Club and the Future Business Leaders of America. Even then she saw the ambition.

“She’s the kind of person that would make a change if she sees something, an injustice, she would fight for that,” Charles said.

Umana fought through Harvard undergrad and onto Harvard Law School.

“Hard work pays off,” said Dr. Stephen Sexsmith, her high school quiz bowl coach.

Now she becomes the first black female president of the Law Review in the student-run legal journal’s 130-year history. The first black man to hold that position would go on to become the nation’s first African-American president.

“I think the lesson is you do the work,” Sexsmith said. “She was always a hard worker, whether it was a class, whether it was in her sports.”

From clubs to basketball, to her spot as president of her graduating class in 2010, her teachers and advisors saw it coming.

“Yesterday when I read that on Facebook, I was like, ‘We called this eight years ago,'” her basketball coach Julie Denniston said. “It wasn’t really that much of a surprise.”

Denniston remembered the “quiet toughness” about Umana, and noted she talked about going into politics. In an email exchange Tuesday, Umana said she didn’t remember having political ambitions as a teenager “and certainly did not consider being President of the Harvard Law Review.”

What she does remember are the people who remember her. “Having incredible advocates as my teachers who encouraged me to be ambitious,” she wrote.

After she gets her degree, she said she wants to work as a public defender. Ask the ones who helped her grow to where she is, and Umana is just getting started.

“There’s just something about her of a quiet confidence that we’re all in good hands,” Denniston said.

“Whatever it is that she’s got her mind on, she’s going to make it,” Sexsmith said. “Whatever it is, it’ll get done.”

“I always tell them that you have to make this world a better place than it was before you arrived here, and make your mark,” Charles said, “and ImeIme is obviously doing exactly what she was destined to do.”Get breaking news, weather and traffic on the go. Download our News App and our Weather App for your phone and tablet.

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