UVA Law Student with 'Kind Heart' Wins $20,000 on Ellen DeGeneres Show

Dana Tapper, Kathryn Cragg

Ellen DeGeneres presents third-year UVA law student Dana Tapper, left, with one of two surprise gifts of $10,000 from Shutterfly. Tapper was brought to the Ellen DeGeneres Show's attention by a letter from third-year UVA law student Kathryn Cragg, center.

February 27, 2013

The Ellen DeGeneres Show brought a surprised University of Virginia law student on stage during Wednesday's show to present her with $20,000 after hearing about her efforts to help children in need.

Third-year law student Dana Tapper, a first-generation college graduate from Deerfield, Ill., spends much of her time outside of classes volunteering to help children transition out of juvenile detention centers in Virginia. She is hoping to work on behalf of children in her future career as a lawyer.

"I want to be an advocate for kids," Tapper said. "I've met some of the most incredible people. They have just this incredible untapped potential. I would like to help them realize it."

Tapper's friend, third-year law student Kathryn Cragg wrote DeGeneres a letter about Tapper, which DeGeneres read on the show.

"I've known Dana Tapper for two years and we attend the University of Virginia School of Law," Cragg's letter said. "Most law students are lured in by promises of large corporate salaries to help pay off their debt, but Dana has been steadfast in her commitment to helping those less fortunate. She spends many hours every week helping children transitioning out of juvenile detention centers. Dana also has the ability to bond with everyone she meets. She is maxed out on student loans but she somehow still manages to find cheap SAT books online for students who can't afford them. I can't think of anyone more giving, loving and deserving."

Tapper said she had no idea Cragg had told DeGeneres about her story. "I was told she wrote about my dance videos," she said.

DeGeneres, who proceeded to show a snippet of one of Tapper's dance videos, opened a box with $10,000 inside, contributed by Shutterfly. 

"It's heavy," DeGeneres said, as she handed Tapper the box. "That'll help pay for your bar exam and other expenses."

Then a Shutterfly representative walked on stage and gave Tapper a check for another $10,000.

While at UVA Law, Tapper has worked with the JustChildren program at the Legal Aid Justice Center, which focuses on improving Virginia's public education, juvenile justice and foster care systems. She is also a member of the Law School's Child Advocacy Clinic, which provides legal assistance to low-income children who have problems with the education, foster care and juvenile justice systems.

Like all UVA Law graduates who pursue careers in public service, Tapper is eligible for the Virginia Loan Forgiveness Program, which helps repay the loans of graduates who earn less than $75,000 annually in public service positions.

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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