Hofstra Law second-year student Chantal Kwade, together with two friends, founded a nonprofit organization, Pillars of Change, in 2017. The co-founders, all of whom are of Ghanaian ancestry and grew up in traditional African households, chose to focus their first initiative in Ghana. The Crowned Gems Project launched in December.
Chantal entered Hofstra Law with a B.S. in business administration from Buffalo State College, where she was a member of the Pan-African Student Organization (PASO) and a volunteer with the Massachusetts Avenue Project, a local nonprofit through which she educated children and teenagers about nutrition, the importance of agriculture, and the production of homegrown fruits and vegetables.
At Hofstra Law, she serves as a member of the Moot Court Board, the treasurer of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) and a Hofstra Law Student Ambassador.
Why did you decide to pursue a law degree?
I always wanted to go to law school since I was a little girl. I’ve actually always imagined myself becoming a judge. When I was younger, I liked how the judges wore robes and commanded the attention of everyone in the room. As I grew, my passion for law developed just by me traveling around the world and seeing injustices done in countries where law and order is not a main concern.
What inspired you to start a nonprofit focused on providing support for women in Ghana?
I started Pillars of Change with my two friends, Joanna Mensah and Alexis Phillips, early in 2017. We wanted to start a nonprofit for five years now, so we decided to become serious and start something back home in Ghana. We have seen many females being regarded as second best, or even forgotten about due to other challenges that the country faces. We started an initiative called the Crowned Gems Project, providing young girls in Ghana with feminine hygiene products and educating them about menstrual hygiene.
What is the mission or goal of the nonprofit?
The mission of Pillars of Change is to develop global initiatives that encourage young women to become takers of destiny. We want to help young women find the strength within themselves to break economic barriers, break social barriers, and break glass ceilings.
How has what you learned in law school helped you start the nonprofit? How will your legal skills help you run it?
I utilize what I learn in law school a lot! When it came to reading and negotiating certain provisions in a contract or even making sure that all of the bylaws for the nonprofit was worded correctly, my education in law school comes in handy. My law school education has been a great benefit to Pillars of Change. My legal skills will help my friends and me run the nonprofit by actually making sure I read everything that I come across as it pertains to the nonprofit and also by making sure that everything is accounted for and done “legally.”
What was your background prior to attending law school, and how did that help shape your studies and starting the nonprofit?
I received my bachelor’s in business administration, with a concentration in marketing, from Buffalo State College. Law school was always a goal, so I wanted to make sure I broadened my horizons and ventured into my other goals. Throughout college, I worked with many local nonprofits, especially nonprofits that primarily focus on the youth. Since I had become aware of how nonprofits operate, and just because I am a woman, I knew starting a nonprofit for young girls would be the best fit.
What are your career aspirations after law school?
My career aspirations after law school? I’m not sure yet; I’m still figuring that out. I want to do so much in life that sometimes I forget to take it one step at a time. Maybe I’ll start with some transactional work after I graduate until I figure out the best fit for me.