Congratulations! CSI grads start law school


Aug 16, 2023 | AlumniNewsmakersProfilesStudent Stories

David Checchi and Nicole Dos Santos are two of five CSI Class of 2023 graduates bound for New York Law School in the fall.  Here are their amazing stories.

There is a reason why CSI’s graduation ceremonies are referred to as Commencement.  The event marks the beginning of the next chapter for CSI’s graduates. That holds true for five dynamic CSI grads who are just days away from beginning their studies at New York Law School.  David Checchi, Nicole Dos Santos, Rimshah Gul, Siham Hammoudi-Patout, and Andrew Tawadrous are all proud CSI graduates. All five have received either full or partial scholarships to attend NY Law.  Their inspiring stories give all of us at the College of Staten Island hope for a brighter future.

As CSI’s Class of 2023 Valedictorian, some might think that Checchi’s path into law school was a natural fit, but the 26-year old Army veteran said nothing could be further from the truth. “I graduated high school with a 71 average, and I had no real intention of even going to college,” he said. “I ultimately developed the maturity, confidence, and most importantly the desire to pursue my education after enlisting and serving.”  Checchi will attend New York Law School with a full tuition scholarship.

It took a global pandemic and a grave car accident for Dos Santos, now forty years old, to ultimately find her way to law. She attended CSI right after high school in 2002, but had to stop and start several times for personal reasons. She ultimately achieved her diploma in Audio Engineering from SAE Institute and from William Esper Studio for Acting. She was interested in law the entire time but always felt law school was out of reach financially.  Life continuously got in the way.

“I never once thought to actually pursue law because I just didn’t think it was something I’d ever be able to afford and I had so much personal baggage going on that I wasn’t putting all my focus into my studies so I didn’t think I could achieve the grades needed either,” she said.

Dos Santos’s car accident gave her a change of heart. “It was a serious car wreck. It appeared very much to be my fault but it wasn’t and I had to work hard to prove that. The way I went about it made me realize how good of a lawyer I would’ve been. Several conversations with a friend or two pushed me to pursue this and I enrolled at CSI and chose classes that would help give me a taste of what it would be like to learn this kind of work.”

Dos Santos returned to the classroom during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and has since earned a scholarship from New York Law School that will cover almost 85% of her tuition. “It honestly doesn’t even seem real to me,” she said. “I have no lawyers in my circle of family or friends. I never imagined I’d get this opportunity. As for the scholarship, it would be impossible for me to attend without it so I’m incredibly grateful.”

Even after getting his head in the right space for higher education, Checchi still hadn’t discovered his passion for law until taking a PHL 101 course with Prof. Chalmers Clark during his freshman year. “That introductory class was one of my favorite classes that I took at CSI. Philosophy is the art of the argument, the emphasis is on asking questions rather than finding answers, and for someone who had not been in a classroom in several years, that change in focus helped to spark a passion for learning, a passion that only continued to flourish during my time here.”

And so both Checchi and Dos Santos intersected with students like Gul, Hammoudi-Patout, and Tawadrous, who made use of the CSI Legal Studies Institute and made the further pursuit of law a reality. They ultimately found their niches, with Checchi really appreciating classes like BioEthics with Prof. Rob Lovering and PHL 490 with Prof. Barbara Montero, which explored complexities of quantitative analysis as it relates to political science, economics, and philosophy. For Dos Santos, Prof. Adam Silberlight’s class on criminal defendant’s rights helped shine a brighter light on her passion for criminal law and civil litigation, a focus she plans to pursue at New York Law.

“I was out of college for almost 15 years so I had to really get back in the swing of things to learn how to research, do reports, use the computer programs, etc.,” Dos Santos noted. “The classes I chose when I returned to CSI really taught me a lot about things like case briefing, research and analysis, politics, and logic. There were obstacles and challenges for sure, but I couldn’t be prouder of myself for not giving up. It makes me feel that there is nothing I can’t do.”

Although Checchi was less removed from studies, he agreed, noting that CSI did more than just offer a place for study, but a place where he could explore and discover his full potential, saying “CSI gave me the opportunity to develop myself both academically and professionally, all under the guidance and mentorship of many members of the esteemed faculty. I am extremely proud to have been admitted to law school, and I am extremely grateful for having been a student at CSI to help get me there.”

Although it took them some time to get to CSI, Checchi and Dos Santos are quick to note how fast the time at CSI went for them, and so they do have advice to leave to future CSI students, among them those who show an interest in law, as they prepare for their journeys.

“Getting good grades is very important to being admitted to law school and is essential for qualifying for scholarships, but what is more important is exploring a wide range of subjects and choosing a major that interests you,” said Checchi. “Pursuing your interests stimulates a passion for learning, and further motivates and inspires you to pursue academic excellence in whatever you decide to pursue.”

“My advice would be to really make a schedule for yourself and stick to it,” said Dos Santos. “There is so much to learn and it can be overwhelming. If you make a schedule, you’ll be able to tackle everything without burning out. Also, if you’re going to do it, you must put your all into it. Invest in and believe in yourself, and you’ll be proud of the results.”

The College of Staten Island could not be prouder of all of its recent graduates, and wishes our law school group the best of luck at New York Law.