Area native learns from past, looking toward her future

Columbus Tonya Sapp has overcome many obstacles to become the first in her family to get a college degree. As a teenager growing up in Martins Ferry, Sapp saw firsthand the devastating effects of drugs and poverty, and knew she needed to find a way to help others.

“I wanted a professional career where I could continue to learn, that would be intellectually stimulating and would allow me to be an advocate for children,” Sapp said. “What better way is there to accomplish those goals than through the practice of law?”

As a first year law student at Capital University in Columbus, Sapp is a new student member of the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA). Her passion for working with neglected and troubled youth has earned her the National Center for Adoption Law and Policy’s first Felicia Beth Nekritz Juvenile Law Fellowship. The fellowship was established in memory of Nekritz, a Capital University Law School graduate, to assist students who share her vision for improving the lives of juveniles through prevention and intervention, policy and systemic improvement efforts, as well as providing direct services for at-risk youth.

In addition to an academic scholarship of $5,000 each year for the next three years, Sapp will be required to work in juvenile law after graduation, but that suits her. “I believe all children deserve an opportunity to live a prosperous life, be in a safe and loving home and have the proper guidance to make better choices about their future,” she said.

Sapp is a graduate of Franklin University in Columbus with a bachelor’s degree in public safety management and holds a master’s in business administration. She is also a member of the Black Law Student Association and lives in Worthington with her 12-year-old son, Tarik.

The Ohio State Bar Association, founded in 1880, is a voluntary association representing approximately 25,000 members of the bench and bar of Ohio as well as nearly 4,000 legal assistants and law students. Through its activities and the activities of its related organizations, the OSBA serves both its members and the public by promoting the highest standards in the practice of law and the administration of justice.