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Hard work, campus support prepares senior for law school

Arts Apr 14, 2020
A man poses by a railing
A man poses by a railing

KOKOMO, Ind. – Inspired by watching Matlock episodes on TV with his mother, Gabriel Retz has dreamed of being a lawyer since he was 7. 

He’s a few steps closer to his goal, as he graduates from Indiana University Kokomo, and has been admitted to the prestigious IU Maurer School of Law in Bloomington.

Even better, he received a merit scholarship that will cover more than half of his tuition.

“It means the world to me, seeing my hard work come to fruition,” Retz said. “I’ve spent a lot of time these last four years chasing my dream of law school and having my first choice recognize my achievements and award me such as generous amount is as invigorating as it is humbling.”

Retz, from Gas City, said he knows practicing law isn’t like what he saw on the legal drama, but the example he viewed motivated his interest.

“I just want to be able to help defend people who might not have access to that kind of legal defense or counsel,” he said. “I want to be able to help people with problems in the community, within the judicial system, in the legal system, in general.”

He’s considered careers in criminal law and public defense, but said he will keep his options open during his three years of law school.

Experience he gained while at IU Kokomo helped solidify his decision about a career in law. He interned with Howard County Judge Brant Perry, who taught one of his criminal justice classes. Retz worked in the Veteran’s Court, which connects veterans in Howard, Cass, Miami, and Fulton counties with specialized VA care as an alternative to being sentenced to jail.

IU Kokomo Chief of Staff Sarah Sarber, a graduate of the IU McKinney School of Law, mentored him along the way, helping him focus and stay calm through the process.

“Gabriel is an outstanding student with a tremendous work ethic. I am so proud of him and all that he has accomplished. He has worked hard balancing his studies, work and coaching,” Sarber said. “He has prepared himself to be successful in law school and he will be an outstanding addition to the legal field. I cannot wait to see all that he will accomplish.”

Retz chose English as his major, for its emphasis on critical reading and writing skills.

“There’s no specific major that’s a prerequisite for law school,” he said. “In high school, I was a big writer and it paired well with what I would need to be able to do. English was a natural fit and it’s been a great choice. It’s a flexible degree. You can do anything with it as long as you’re savvy enough.”

Faculty members prepared him well for the rigors of law school.

“They instilled a work ethic so I can be ready for the material that’s going to be thrown at me,” he said. “It wasn’t an easy ride. There was a lot of reading, a lot of writing, and high expectations. That’s going to serve me well in the future.”

Outside the classroom he served as an editor for Field, the campus journal, which accustomed him to reading dense material and fine-tuning writing. He also participated in the English and philosophy clubs and worked part time.

After years of dreaming of law school, Retz looks forward to finally getting started.

“It’s exciting, but it’s frightening, too,” he said. “You hear the horror stories about studying until 2 a.m. and then going back to class early in the morning, but I feel ready for it. Maurer is a great law school, and it offers everything I need.”

Indiana University Kokomo celebrates 75 years as north central Indiana’s choice for higher education.

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