Born in Nigeria, Damilola immigrated to America as a young child with his parents. The challenges he faced growing up inspire him to fight for a brighter future for others as a lawyer and policy advocate.
Damilola Arowolaju and his family immigrated to America in search of opportunity, which the South Suburbs provided. Growing up in Country Club Hills, his mom made minimum wage as a daycare teacher. His father—despite being brilliant—struggled to find consistent work and bounced around from janitorial work to government service.
He remembers times where his family helped his father clean business across the South Suburbs. They both also pastored a church. Like many families, they lost their home when the housing market crashed. His father relocated to Nigeria in search of better opportunity, while the rest of his family made a new home in Matteson. Damilola attended public schools throughout the area and played little league football in Frankfort and Homewood Flossmoor.
When preparing to enroll at Rich South High School, he was nervous. He heard only bad news coming out of the school, but his mom told him: “Dami, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.” And she was right. Although he struggled with debilitating social anxiety and suicidal thoughts, he graduated at the top of his class. He used football as a coping mechanism to deal with his mental health—it gave his life meaning. Upon graduating, he went to Northwestern University, where he walked onto the football team.
After his first season, he was cut from the team—losing his coping mechanism. Depression soon followed; he was lost and hopeless. But in that darkness, he found God and was led to a Social Policy class that changed his life forever. As a Black man in America, he knew life could be unfair. But at that moment he learned of the systemic racial inequality that manifests itself in every fact of life from health, education, to justice and more. At that moment, he decided to dedicate his life to service—designing a better world through policy reform.
This service started at Northwestern, leading several groups and initiatives focused on providing social, academic, and emotional support for students of color. And as part of a special task force convened by the Vice President of Student Affairs, he contributed to a report presented to Northwestern’s leadership on improving the Black student experience. In 2017, he graduated with his B.S. in Education and Social Policy and had the honor of delivering the student convocation speech to his graduating class.
Damilola then went to law school at the center of law and policy in D.C. to equip himself with the tools needed to create the change he sought. He received his Juris Doctor with Honors from The George Washington University Law School in 2020. While there, he was elected Student Body President and expanded resources and support for underrepresented students. The American Bar Association awarded these efforts that year as the initiative that most improved inclusion and diversity. Damilola also served as a Policy Fellow in the Criminal Law & Policy Initiative; worked as Judicial Intern for a federal judge, a Policy Fellow in the Office of House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, and a summer associate in the New York and D.C. offices of a large law firm. And he had the opportunity to study International Human Rights Law abroad at University of Oxford.
While studying for the bar exam, Damilola served as a Legislative Analyst for the District of Columbia’s Committee on Business and Economic Development. As a licensed attorney, he works with the MacArthur Justice Center to litigate cases across the country aimed at criminal justice reform. He aspires entering government service and implementing policy geared at eradicating systemic inequality and creating better outcomes for all—despite race, gender, or status.