Just after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, Devon Greenwood ’13 was hired as a paralegal with the Federal Defender Program, in Atlanta, where she now works on behalf of death row inmates in the group’s Capital Habeas Unit. As challenging as the job is, it is not the first time that Devon has had to deal with difficult cases: for much of her time at Williston, she was a member of the Discipline Committee, offering recommendations on the behavior of her fellow students. Experiencing that responsibility at a young age made a powerful impression on her, she says, and has given her a new appreciation for how Williston prepared her for later life.
“In talking to friends in college, they’d say ‘My high school would never let a student do something like that,’” she says. “Opportunities like that really made me more confident. I feel like I had a voice, and people cared what I thought.”
Devon had always wanted to attend Williston. Her mother, Shannon Shaughnessy Greenwood ’83, and two uncles were alums, and she grew up in Easthampton, attending summer camp at the school (her two younger brothers, Aidan and Tyler, graduated in 2015 and 2017). “My heart was definitely set on Williston,” she says. At the same time, she adds, “I knew that I wouldn’t be able to go to Williston, or any prep school, without financial aid. We were lucky that Williston was so generous.”
Devon was a day student, but between sports—she ran cross-country and track—and other activities, she immersed herself in the community, “and that’s what contributed to it being so meaningful to me,” she says. “I found my people there.” A tutor in the Writing Center and with Areté, she was a member of the Cum Laude Society as a senior and won the Sarah B. Whitaker Prize at graduation, as the top young woman in her class.
At Penn, where she majored in Urban Studies and Law and Society, Devon continued to benefit from her Williston experience. “It was almost overwhelming how much free time you had,” she says. “My experience juggling things before college helped me to balance schoolwork, part-time jobs, and clubs.” Her study of the death penalty issue persuaded her to pursue work in that area, and after a rigorous application process, she was hired to her present position. It’s a choice that feels in keeping with all she learned at Williston.
“You know, they always say the ‘Purpose, Passion, and Integrity’ thing, and I thought it was cheesy at first, but now those principles are guiding my career choices. When I learned about death penalty issues, I got so fired up and thought, This is my passion. I believe that what’s going on is wrong, and that it’s my responsibility to do something about it. The direction Williston gave me has been very important.”