Fletcher enrolled in Harvard Law School

Senior Reporter
02/28/2019 08:45 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Having graduated from Princeton, Cherokee Nation citizen Chance Fletcher is now a student of Harvard Law School. COURTESY
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Chance Fletcher has moved on to the next chapter of his academic career, and he couldn’t be enrolled in a more prestigious school.

The Cherokee Nation citizen gained recognition in his hometown of Oologah, Oklahoma, when he was accepted to Princeton University.

Fletcher, a 2014 Oologah-Talala High School alumnus, earned his degree in history from Princeton in the spring of 2018. He is now pursuing a juris doctorate at Harvard Law School as the first recipient of the American Indian College Fund Law School Scholarship.

“People frequently ask about what it is like to have transitioned from Oologah to Princeton and then to Harvard,” Fletcher said. “The first transition to Princeton, in a way, was a bit of a stepping stone as far as urban environments to Harvard. Oologah, is obviously a rural community, but Princeton is not really a ‘big city’ or anything of that sort.”

However, Harvard is in Cambridge, part of the Boston metro statistical area and densely populated. The city numbers nearly 115,000 residents. Greater Boston has a population of more than 4.7 million.

“It is very urban, but I feel I have been eased into it,” Fletcher said. “Things that I have really appreciated about the opportunity to be exposed to these new places and people include learning how to use chopsticks – I like to think I am decent now – and eating my first oyster – slurp – but most of all, being challenged by, and making friends, with individuals with starkly different views than my own.”

As a graduate student, Fletcher is active in the Harvard Law School chapters of the Federalist Society, Christian Fellowship, Native American Law Students Association, Students for Life, and he serves as an editor for the Journal of Law and Public Policy.

“Primarily, I spend my days reading cases and assigned supplementary materials,” he said. “There are not very many assignments outside of the final exam for my actual classes, so things heat up quite a bit during finals. I have particularly enjoyed being a member of the Federalist Society. The chapter brings an incredible speaker to campus almost every week, and being exposed to a plethora of serious people with serious ideas has absolutely deepened my learning here at Harvard.”

Fletcher is a first-generation college student, and when considering his educational options in Oologah, Ivy League schools didn’t immediately spring to his mind.

As an undergraduate, he was a founding member of the Native Americans at Princeton student organization. In 2016, he hiked a Trail of Tears route between Tennessee’s Red Clay State Park and the Cherokee National Courthouse Square in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, after receiving the Martin A. Dale Summer Fellowship, which allows Princeton students to undertake unusual projects.

And Harvard lists several of Fletcher’s academic and civic accomplishments: honor student; volunteer for Project 320K to register CN citizens to vote in tribal, state and national elections; class president 2014-16; freshman representative of the Princeton University Special Task Force on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; summer analyst for Cherokee Nation Businesses; treasurer of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Youth Council; and member of the Princeton University Honor Committee.

As the first recipient of the College Fund Law School Scholarship, all attendant expenses are covered to attend Harvard Law.

Fletcher credits his family and tribal councilor for helping him get into Princeton and Harvard. When he was in high school, his grandmother ferried him along the East Coast to visit schools.

“I want to be very clear about this, without the Cherokee Nation, I would have never gone to either Princeton or Harvard Law School,” Fletcher said. “I am here because Cherokee adults invested in me and encouraged me to apply to some of these schools – schools I had heard of but never really thought about – when I was in high school. My family has been wonderfully supportive of my education. Thanks to the incredibly generous financial aid at Princeton and the American Indian Law School Scholarship at Harvard Law School, my education has not been a financial burden to myself or my family.”

Every year, a new class of CN students weighs its options for the future. Fletcher urged them never to automatically count themselves out of the running for any school or career.

“Obviously it takes a lot of hard work, good grades and test scores, but there are many people willing to help you,” he said. “Something I have learned is that older folks absolutely love when young adults and kids ask them for help. Older Cherokees especially love when young Cherokees ask them for help. Utilize the communities that you invest in. Trust me, they want to invest in you. Folks want you to achieve your dreams, so dream big. After all, some crazy kiddo from Oologah, whose family business proudly is sucking turds out of porta potties and septic tanks, talked Harvard Law School into letting him enroll there.”
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