Alumni News

January 19, 2021 at 9:41 am

Sparks Honored With Ohio Innocence Project Award

Jada Sparks, portrait

Jada Sparks

Jada Sparks, a graduate student pursuing an M.A. in Law, Justice & Culture, was awarded the first-ever Dr. Donna Mayerson Student Leadership Award from the Ohio Innocence Project.

In 2020, OIP announced the award was created to “honor and celebrate student leaders and their invaluable contributions to educating people in their campus communities,” as noted in the Seventh Edition OIP Annual Review.

Mayerson is a positive psychologist, leader and donor to many educational and charitable initiatives. The award is intended to honor students whom embody Mayerson’s qualities of leadership, professionalism, integrity, and commitment to OIP.

Sparks holds all of these and a drive to impact her community. During her sophomore year, she was inspired by hearing the story of Kwame Ajamu, Wiley Bridgeman and Rickey Jackson, who were wrongfully convicted in 1975.

“I remember walking back to my dorm and thinking if I could contribute in any way to making sure this didn’t happen to someone else, I wanted to be a part it.” Sparks notes. This inspired her to start reaching out to her friends and family and to tell them about Ajamu’s story, and she later spent hours researching wrongful convictions, as well as all the great work the Ohio Innocence Project does.

But she didn’t stop there. Sparks went on to be the president of Ohio University’s OIP-u chapter for two years. She committed enormously to the growth of the organization, which now is one of the largest law-related student organizations at the university and boasts more than 80 members.

Additionally, Jada’s leadership contributed to furthering the Center for Law, Justice & Culture’s educational mission. “Her energy, interest and passion for raising awareness around wrongful conviction regularly draws some of the largest audiences of CLJC-related programming,” said CLJC Pre-Law Advisor Larry Hayman, Esq., the organization’s advisor.

Sparks’s work in raising awareness about wrongful convictions and combating injustices in the criminal justice system did not end at graduation. Since from Ohio University in the spring of 2020 with bachelor’s degrees in Political Science Pre-Law and Sociology-Criminology, as well as a certificate in Law, Justice and Culture, she has been pursuing a master’s in Law, Justice and Culture to continue her work.

“I want to continue to be a part of innocence work, whether that be as a fair prosecutor or a public defender, to limit the possibility of wrongful convictions happening under my watch,” Sparks says, noting she plans to eventually go to law school.




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