A love of books and learning sparked Delaney Toomer’s interest in a legal career.
Delaney Toomer, ’23, says that she has had a book in her hand for as long as she can remember.
“I thought that books were like a gift, or something magical that I got to be a part of,” she recalls.
She inherited the love of reading from her mother, Tania, a reading coach in South Carolina public schools. As she grew older, her curiosity spread from literature to current events, and she watched with her family as the case of Trayvon Martin unfolded on television.
“I realized that I wanted to be an agent of change,” she said. “I wanted to be able to come and speak on behalf of someone like Trayvon Martin or his family.” Soon she realized that her love of reading and writing would also prepare her for a career where she could make a difference: law.
When it was time for college, she parted ways with her twin brother, Donovon, who went to the University of South Carolina, and she chose Clemson. She said her choice to major in English to prepare for a legal career was never in question, and her singular focus on preparing for a legal career stood out to her professors.
“Delaney performed so well in my course as a first-semester sophomore in a class designed for juniors and seniors that I recommended she apply to the Clemson University Honors College, to which she was subsequently accepted,” said Rhondda Robinson Thomas, Calhoun Lemon Professor of Literature.
Beyond the classroom
Toomer’s acceptance to the Honors College opened the doors to one of the most pivotal experiences in her Clemson career, an internship with the United States Attorney’s Office in Washington D.C.
“Coming to Clemson I knew there was going to be one semester when I go away and meet new people because I think that’s very important to becoming a well-rounded citizen,” she said.
It was great for me to see the law in action instead of watching it on TV or reading it in a textbook.Delaney Toomer, Class of ’23
Her internship with the USAO was made possible through South Carolina Washington Semester Program. Affiliated with the University of South Carolina Honors College, the program is open to all Honors students in the state’s public universities.
In Washington, Toomer had the opportunity to work alongside federal prosecutors in the Superior Court Division of the Department of Justice on a daily basis.
“That experience was truly transformative because first of all, it showed me what it meant to learn how to be a legal writer,” she said. “It showed me that there is a human essence to the law, and there’s a nuance to the law that you don’t always get from a piece of paper. It was great for me to see the law in action instead of watching it on TV or reading it in a textbook.”
Toomer pursued the full Clemson Experience as vigorously on campus as she did in the nation’s capital. Following in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother, she joined Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, becoming vice president. She interned with the South Carolina Office of the Attorney General, the Clemson University Office of Community and Ethical Standards and the March of Dimes. She served as a research assistant in the Department of English. She served as vice president of the William T. Howell Pre-Law Society, volunteered with Harvest Hope Food Bank, and even worked as a student assistant for Clemson Football recruiting as a member of Tiger Pride.
“I was able to be on the sidelines of every home game, meeting recruits and the families of athletes, and it really helped me see a different side of the Clemson Family,” she said.
Her full embrace of Clemson’s opportunities was rewarded, first with the Frank A. Burtner Scholarship and also with the Blue Key Academic and Leadership Award from the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities.
After she graduates in May 2023, she is headed to the University of Virginia School of Law — her “dream law school” — with a scholarship.
When she reflects on her achievements at Clemson, what stands out are the people.
“There’s something really special about Clemson,” she said. “Not only have I met incredible people and friends, but the faculty and staff have truly changed my life. If I met someone who was coming to Clemson English, I would tell them to talk to their professors. Go to their office hours and meet with them, because they will truly be mentors to you, and you will learn many more things than you thought you could.”
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