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Student fights fires by night, attends Loyola College of Law by day

Loyola press release - August 19, 2013

Most college students have, at one time or another, burned the candle at both ends, balancing their studies, work and social life. Roddrick Harrison, a third-year law student at Loyola University New Orleans, takes it to a whole new level as he juggles academics and his job as a New Orleans fireman.

Born and raised in New Orleans, Harrison, 27, has been a firefighter for Ladder 11 in Gentilly since graduating from the academy in December 2009.

“Almost everyone knows that I am a firefighter, and I would say I get more attention because of it, but I don't think that makes me any different from any other student,” Harrison said. Many would beg to differ though. It’s not often a student helps put out a house fire. At a recent call, Harrison remembers how his adrenaline started pumping and tunnel vision took over.

“All you see are the flames. This is problematic because you may overlook signs of a pending collapse. So as I was suppressing the fire, I completely overlooked the fact the structure was about to fail and fall,” Harrison said. “I didn’t hear my captain calling my name to warn me. However, I did feel his grasp on the back of my air tank pull me back about 5 feet. And no sooner did he release me, the front side of the structure came falling down at my feet.”

After graduating with his bachelor’s in political science, Harrison knew he would pursue a graduate degree, and law school was definitely his top option.

Harrison said balancing school and work is the hardest thing. That’s an understatement. He has classes Monday through Thursday and his work schedule is 24 hours on and then 48 hours off. It requires much planning and shift trades in order for him to go to class.

“The hardest thing is staying up late at the firehouse until 2 or maybe even 3 in the morning preparing for class,” Harrison said. He doesn’t recommend students work while they attend school, but he just couldn’t give it up.

“I just was not ready to quit doing a job I loved. Therefore, I was going to continue until it was not possible anymore. Fortunately for me, I’ve been successful in school and have even been chosen to be on Loyola’s Moot Court Board,” Harrison said.

His success in the classroom hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“I've been impressed with Roddrick from the very beginning of his law school career. I've had the privilege of teaching him in a few classes. He is always engaged, always confident, and never afraid to speak up in class. He also seems to be involved in pretty much every organization the school has,” said associate law professor John Blevins, J.D.

“But despite his busy schedule, he manages to make it all work—except on Mondays after the Saints lose. He's quiet on those days."

As Harrison prepares for his final year before graduation next May, he says he plans on pursuing law full-time. He’s interested in criminal law and will be working on criminal defense with the law clinic starting this month.

For more information, contact James Shields in Loyola's Office of Public Affairs at 504-861-5888.