Kaneesha Dukes knew she wanted to be a lawyer since the sixth grade. She imagined herself in a courtroom, in front of a jury, representing citizens and her community.
“I’m one of those clichés, Law and Order definitely influenced me,” she said.
The Rochester City Scholars program helped the fourth-year criminal justice major build on those dreams. It also provided the clutch piece of evidence necessary when the dream was looking like it was out of reach.
“Kaneesha is determined,” said her mother, Yolanda Bouey. “When she has an idea, or makes a decision, she will go the extra mile or do whatever it takes to make it happen. She has had hurdles, but these didn’t stop her.”
One of those hurdles was hearing that a scholarship opportunity at another university fell through. The scholarship interviewer told Dukes that acceptance at that university might be improbable. “They didn’t think she’d be accepted at the school. It almost dashed her dreams,” Bouey said.
A short time later, Dukes received an acceptance letter from that university but by then the scholarship had been denied. She applied to RIT, was accepted and qualified for the Rochester City Scholars program at the last minute.
As part of the criminal justice program, Dukes interned with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and in the District Attorney’s Office. She observed how sheriff’s deputies build cases and how attorneys work with witnesses and defendants.
“It makes me happy that she is going after her dream,” Bouey said. “Even when she was little, she always said she wanted to be a lawyer. She’d never waver.”
Her daughter’s determination also inspired Bouey, who gave birth to Dukes when she was 17. Bouey had to stop taking college classes after she was married and had her second child because she was working two jobs and taking care of the family. Her husband was fatally shot outside the family’s home.
“Someone tried to steal his car,” she said quietly.
But Bouey returned to school and graduated in June from Monroe Community College with an associate degree in business.
Dukes hopes to continue to inspire others.
“I want to give back to my community because this is where my family is based and this is where I’ve made my stand in Rochester, academically. This program inspired me to want to help others and give back. I’d like to be known in my city for doing something good.”