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Law students put in 60,000 miles on the road to graduate

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Posted at 4:00 AM, May 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-27 09:09:54-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A pair of Nashville School of Law students traveled from Chattanooga to Nashville at the end of their full-time work shifts three nights a week for four years to earn their law degrees.

"I stalked her [at orientation]," Nashville School of Law 2022 graduate Sarah Hay said. "I spent the whole first half, like hunting her down. And when I found her she was terrified. Because she was like, 'I don't know what this girl wants.' But I told her she had to carpool with me because I would never make it without her and there's no way that I could have."

Hay and Ariel Catus became fast friends and a carpool that they both credit with getting them through a rigorous four years of night classes at the Nashville School of Law.

"There's times where I didn't want to come where she didn't want to come," said Catus. "She was living the same thing that I was so us just talking and getting our feelings out and encouraging each other when the other one would need it was the best."

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The Nashville School of Law hold classes in the evenings and has a more affordable payment plan than most law schools making it an ideal school for working professionals.

Hay has two children that the students would often talk to in the car and she often took the motherly role in the friends' relationship.

"I'm out of touch," Hay said. "So she keeps me cool. And I keep her grounded. I'm like, ‘Does mama Sarah need to call you and line you up today? Did you do your homework?'"

The pair joined the same study group, took all the same classes and even sat together as Hay has hearing loss.

"I can't imagine ever wanting to keep going the whole four years without having somebody to do it with and to kind of have somebody to lean on or to help you cram it in last minute on the way to test and I'm like, ‘Wait a minute, we're getting tested on that and I study that teaches me to chapter three.'" Hay said.

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Nashville School of Law Dean William Koch

At the Nashville School of Law, the distance a student travels to get their degree becomes a badge of honor.

"When graduation happens, the students will walk across the stage they will receive a hood–their academic lead, I will hand them their diploma. And more often than not, a student will say '26,000 miles.' They keep track of all the mileage they've driven to and from school," Nashville School of Law Dean William Koch said.

He said the most he remembered hearing was 26,000 miles but Hay and Catus might set the school's record at 60,000 miles, which would have been more if it were not for the coronavirus pandemic.

"It's about $60 for me to fill up my tank. So it takes a full tank for me to drive from Chattanooga to Nashville and then back," Catus said. "I have to fill up again for my travel to and from work. That year, we were just driving twice a week. So that's already $120 for me just for gas. And so COVID since we were remote saved me financially in that aspect of things. She’d bear the burden one week, and I’d bear the burden the next week."

All in all, the pair encourages others who say earning a degree is too hard during a certain season of their life to remember anything is possible, especially if you have a friend.

"I just really enjoyed the company," said Catus. "That's the funniest part. We don't even say sometimes, ‘Wow, the writing faster to you today.’ And it would be just us talking, just connecting and getting to know each other telling our stories to get a different perspective. Again, nobody can understand what we were going through... except this person right here that was sitting right next to me."

To learn more about the Nashville School of Law, visit its website.

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The 2022 graduating class at the Nashville School of Law will have about 80 students.