May 12, 2014 | Leave a Comment
When Yanneka King was a student at Broughton High School, in Raleigh, she did a project on the North Carolina State Constitution. She learned then that the state constitution calls for all education to be as close to free as possible. But when she attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she found that many of her friends were struggling financially.
Too many people, she realized, were being denied access to higher education because of the cost to attend. The state was “not quite following” the North Carolina State Constitution, she said. “I was frustrated by it.” She was frustrated enough that she has set out to find a way to change it.
Even as early as 5 years old, when she delivered her own version of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, King had been interested in the political system, so becoming an elected official seemed to provide one avenue. But as her father told her, “To be a politician you have to know the law.”
So after completing her undergraduate degree in political science from UNC-Chapel Hill, where she focused on North Carolina politics, she enrolled at Campbell University’s Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law.
She chose to attend Campbell Law because it prepares its students to practice in the real world, she said. As a law student, for instance, she was a member of the Moot Court, she worked as a law clerk at a law firm, and she helped defend a developing country in a contract dispute.
She also chose to attend Campbell Law because of its location in downtown Raleigh. “The N.C. Supreme Court is right around the corner,” she said.
N.C. Supreme Court Justice Paul M. Newby even taught the State Constitutional Law course she took. Through that class, she studied Leandro v. North Carolina, a series of cases that began in 1994 that looked at accessibility to pre-school education to children under age 5. In its first ruling on the case, the N.C. Supreme Court ruled that “every child of this state an opportunity to receive a sound basic education in our public schools.”
“All education is supposed to be as close to free as possible, but where does the limit occur?” King said. Does it include public higher education? King believes it does. “It would be nice to bring higher education issues to the N.C. Supreme Court’s attention,” she said. “And that’s the plan.”
Now that she has completed her law degree from Campbell, she aspires to work in business law before “opening up a little constitutional law boutique” through which she’ll bring up issues like the cost of higher education to the N.C. Supreme Court. Her ultimate goal, though, is to be governor of North Carolina.
“When I studied political science at UNC-Chapel Hill, it was interesting to read about former governors Terry Sanford and Jim Hunt and all the strides they made in education,” she said. “The executive department of the North Carolina government seems to be the best way to make those strides.
“That’s why I’ve always had my eye on the governor’s office.” —Cherry Crayton
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