From Catto Scholar to Paralegal: How Chelsea Hammond used Success as Her Biggest Motivator

After graduating this May, Chelsea Hammond is already a working paralegal. Now 31 years old, she wasn’t sure how successful she would be after having been out of school for so long. But with each new accomplishment, Chelsea’s doubt turned into motivation and a hunger to see how far she could go. 

Chelsea chose Community College of Philadelphia because it has one of the only Paralegal Studies programs accepted by the American Bar Association. Even before she started her classes, Chelsea received some great news—she was eligible for the College’s Octavius Catto Scholarship. Attending full-time, she would have 100% of her tuition and book costs covered, plus she would receive one-on-one coaching from her Catto success coach, Sarah Steese. She would also receive a monthly stipend. “The $150 really helped me with my living expenses,” she said. 

Chelsea was interested in the justice system from an early age and thought that being a paralegal might play to her knack for research and problem-solving.  
A straight “A” student, Chelsea stays in touch with her legal professors, contacting them when she has questions about one of the many cases she works on. 

While she excelled at school, Chelsea encountered difficulties that to some, might seem insurmountable. Chelsea’s apartment was significantly damaged when a neighbor set his own apartment on fire. She got through this challenge with the help of Steese, who was able to find emergency funding to help with some of the extra expenses and connect her to organizations where she could get free clothing and inexpensive furniture to replace what was damaged. 

Throughout Chelsea’s time at the College, Steese was a vital part of her support system. “It was stressful, you know, and it was good to have somebody to talk to, and to encourage me. It helped me get through those things. It was like having a mini therapist,” she said.  

With a tenacious attitude and laser focus on her career path, Chelsea decided to participate in an online simulated internship while she was at the College. “I wasn't sure at first if it was going to teach me much that I didn't know already because I had already been working in the field, but I was really impressed. It got into personal injury, difficult research, and things that I had never done [before].” 

She not only got valuable hands-on experience during this time, but she went even further and used the opportunity to become certified in eDiscovery which is, in Chelsea’s words, “how law firms now manage large amounts of electronic files.” 

With her classmates, Chelsea helped start the Paralegal Student Association, which she says gave her a sense of community in addition to what she experienced in class. This student group focuses on networking and sharing resources and learning opportunities available at the College.  

Chelsea went on to receive multiple awards for academic excellence and student leadership, including a Distinguished Honor Roll certificate from the Octavius Catto Scholarship, a certificate of recognition from the Fox Rothschild Center for Law and Society, a Student Leadership Award, and an academic award from the Paralegal Studies program. 

Chelsea finds now more than ever that her life is full of things to look forward to. She cites the encouragement she has received from her friends and family as a huge source of motivation for her, saying that they were there to congratulate her on each new milestone. On top of her blossoming paralegal career, she is recently engaged, and very excited to tie the knot with her fiance, David. 

In addition, as someone who experienced addiction and recovery throughout her teens and 20s, the purpose and motivation that Chelsea gained at the College not only aided in her recovery but spurred her ambition and drive. “Before [CCP], I worked part-time and didn't make a whole lot of money, and I just felt like I couldn't do anything more than that. I didn't have that self-worth to say, ‘I can do more than that.’ Once I started school and started to show myself I could not only do it, but I was getting straight As, then I was just off to the races.”

Chelsea’s road to success and self-actualization was filled with hurdles, but she pushed past them and overcame them all. “Once you prove to yourself you can do something, it's like the sky's the limit,” she said.