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Tillman Breckenridge Graduate Views Degrees as Means For Removing Family From Deteriorating Neighborhood

May 3, 2001-- When Tillman Breckenridge was 15, he decided to rev his life into high gear, in a drive to improve his parents’ lives.

A 10th-grader at the time, Breckenridge resolved to move his parents from the rapidly deteriorating Virginia Beach neighborhood where he spent much of his youth. To reach that goal, he assigned himself an ambitious task: to graduate from college in two years.

Not only did he graduate from the University of Virginia in two years, but on May 20, at the age of 22, he will receive a law degree from U.Va. He will soon join one of the nation’s top law firms in Chicago.

The son of James and Earlette Breckenridge, Tillman Breckenridge and his family moved to the College Park section of Virginia Beach in 1983. Over the years, the neighborhood deteriorated, becoming "a large drug-distribution point."

"My father grew up in Chicago’s Southside and fought in Vietnam. He’s heard more than his share of gun shots in his life," Breckenridge said. My mother grew up with none of that and shouldn’t have to get used to it. I want to move my parents to a place where they no longer will hear shots."

Vowing to move his parents out of their neighborhood and determined to become a lawyer, Breckenridge pushed in Tallwood High School to take Advanced Placement exams -- even in subjects where he wasn’t enrolled in AP classes. He graduated from high school in 1996 with an impressive 45 AP credits.

Breckenridge, however, did not devote himself exclusively to studying in high school. He was active in theater and served as captain of the Debate Team and It’s Academic quiz team.

By scoring 4 or above on the AP exams, Breckenridge earned approximately 1-1/2 years worth of college credit. After carrying 38 credit hours during his first year at U.Va., he completed the required number of credit hours for his psychology major in just three semesters.

He earned a B.A. in psychology in two years with a good grade-point average, despite being active in First-Year Players, serving as sports writer for the student newspaper and working at the U.Va. Aquatic and Fitness Center.

While in law school, Breckenridge has remained active in the University community. He served two years in the University Judiciary Committee, including the vice chair for Trails position. He’s also been active in the Student Bar Association.

While Breckenridge believes it's best for students to take their time in college to explore the many possibilities available, he has no regrets about his path.

"Though I did it quickly, I don’t think I’ve missed a thing. The University has given me a lot, and I have given a lot back. I have no regrets," Breckenridge said.

"I was a law student, but I really led two lives. Each could be an oasis from the other" he added. "There was ‘Law Tillman,’ which is pretty much how everyone knows me now. But also, there was ‘College Tillman.’ All my friends from college were still around for my first two years of law school. For those first two years, I got a chance to be a college kid on occasion. So, I don’t really feel like I’ve cheated myself out of the college experience by finishing early. I got the best of both worlds."

Although Breckenridge has school loans to repay, he is optimistic that he can help his family move soon. His mother started an insurance agency, which is growing and generating revenue, and he expects to contribute substantially to the household.

"My parents have worked excruciating hours for little reward ever since I can remember. I would like to see them relax a little more and take a vacation or two," he said.

Contact: Ida Lee Wootten, (804) 924-6857

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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Last Modified: Friday, 01-Jun-2001 16:29:50 EDT
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