SimiCares Scholarship recipient, Sonya Williams, 3L shares her experience meeting the Abrol Family

This article is devoted to Simi Abrol ’16. A woman of immense care for others, natural brilliance, exceptional beauty, and devotion to her community.

Last semester, I learned that I received the Simi Cares Scholarship because of my activism on and off campus as well as my clinical experiences. I was honored and was excited to learn more about the woman for whom the scholarship was named.

Simi Abrol was a class of 2016 graduate from the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law. She passed away unexpectedly in 2018, only two years after she began work as an immigration attorney. Simi participated in the General Practice Clinic at UDC Law and received the Olender Foundation Award in 2015 for her exceptional clinical work.

Professor Matthew I. Fraidin reached out to me when he learned that I had been chosen for such an honor and expressed his love for Simi. He described her as a leader and a wonderful person. He recalled how charismatic she was, and how fun she made the clinic environment. His statements made me excited to meet the Abrol family.

My day with the Abrol Family

I arrived at the Abrol Home around noon on a beautiful Saturday in February. A petite woman opened the door, with the brightest smile and a beautiful yellow sweater. Her name was Suman Abrol, and she was Simi’s mother.  I immediately felt the warmth of her welcome. There at the door with her were two dogs, who noticed me as I arrived. They barked uncontrollably at the stranger walking into the house. Once inside, I was introduced to the family dogs and we instantly became friends.  Shibat and Sherlock, two bichon mixes, were Simi’s dogs.  Mrs. Abrol informed me that every time young people come over, the pups get super excited, hoping Simi is coming back. This pulled on my heart strings, as one of the dogs went back to the window as if to verify that I was alone. Then I met Mr. Abrol, Simi’s father. As he attempted to calm the dogs, I glanced around the house, and all I could see were photos of Simi with her wavy dark hair, her bright smile, and brown eyes. Mrs. Abrol took time to explain most of the photos, and Mr. Abrol smiled as we discussed how gorgeous Simi was. His smile was one of pride and of sadness. Then he said, “She was amazing.”

I followed Mr. and Mrs. Abrol to a larger room, which had large photos of Simi and some photos of her at UDC Law with friends and colleagues. As we sat and talked for a few minutes, I began to thank them for allowing me the opportunity to visit, learn about Simi, and show my gratitude for their generous scholarship. Mrs. Abrol presented me with a gift.  She said the gift was not much, but she and Mr. Abrol wanted me to have what was inside.

When I opened it, the first thing I saw was a rose-colored shawl. I draped it over my arms and told her that I loved it. Mrs. Abrol responded with words I will never forget:

“Every day, I want to wrap my arms around my daughter. When you wear this, know that I am wrapping my arms around you.”

Tears formed. As a mother myself, I felt every single word deeply. We hugged, and then I opened a medium sized blue Tiffany and Co box. The box contained a small candy dish, with engravings at the bottom that read “United States Senate” with the senate logo. Mr. Abrol explained that Simi always dreamed of becoming a Senator and eventually a Governor. She had her heart set on that before she attended to law school. This gift was intended to be her gift when she reached that milestone. But because she passed, they believed it was only right for the gift to come to me, so that when I graduate and move on, I will remember to go after my dreams and never forget that Simi’s family is cheering me on.  

I hugged them and took the last box out of the bag. It was a box of girl scout cookies. Simi wasn’t a girl scout, but it was normal for her to buy all of the girl scout cookies from the girl scouts at the store, and return the cookies, so that they could resell them and raise more money. The cookies reminded them of her, and now, I don’t think I can ever look at a girl scout cookie the same way again.

After the gifts, I continued to learn about who Simi was. Her mother described how open and honest she was with everyone about everything and how she enjoyed meeting new people.  I learned that we have a lot in common, including our desire to aid people experiencing homelessness. In her spare time, Simi   would buy extra food, and take it to people she knew needed help.  She’d learn their stories and see if there was any way at all that she may be able to help them.

Simi Abrol was a true advocate. Her radical compassion made her very persuasive. Simi usually won every argument she attempted. People listened to her. They believed in her. This is why her working as an immigration attorney before her passing made so much sense to me. She gave so much of her life to helping her clients.

 After lunch, Mrs. Abrol showed me the two benches and trees they dedicated to their daughter. The plaques on the benches dedicated to Simi at the Abrol’s nearby community center, where Simi coached a youth basketball team, read: “A Joy that Shall Outlive Eternity” and “The only beautiful path is the one you create” after her name.

It’s apparent that Simi was a confident woman and loved her friends and family deeply.   As we prepared to bid each other farewell, I felt closer to Simi’s memory.  She lives on through those who loved her and those who follow her example. To accept this scholarship that was established to highlight her beautiful life, is an incredible honor. To me, Simi is a friend that I never got to meet. Her name means so much to me knowing the type of person she was and how many values we shared. I look forward to producing a SimiCares Day of Community Service that honors Simi’s legacy and keeps her memory alive. She was one of us, a Firebird, a social justice warrior who practiced law, promoted justice, and is still changing lives.

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