Everett Mitchell: It’s up to us to support the ‘diamonds in the rough’

Before he was elected a Dane County Circuit Court judge.

Before he was ordained as pastor of the Christ the Solid Rock Baptist Church in Madison.

Before he was named director of community relations at UW–Madison.

Before he earned his juris doctor from UW Law School, his master’s degrees in divinity and theology from Princeton and his degrees in mathematics and religion from Morehouse College.

Headshot of the Hon. Rev. Everett Mitchell
The Hon. Rev. Everett Mitchell

Before all of that, Everett Mitchell was a good high school student who had his mind set on getting promoted to assistant manager at the grocery store where he worked as a bagger.

“Nobody in my family had ever graduated from college,” Mitchell said. “When I was getting ready to graduate from high school, I had decided that I couldn’t go to college.”

It took mentors, counselors, friends and family who believed in him and a supportive environment at UW–Madison to enable Everett D. Mitchell (J.D. ’10) to unlock his potential and become the community leader he is today.

That support helped him overcome being “functionally illiterate” coming out of high school, personal tragedy and homelessness to become a pastor, criminal justice reformer, and in 2016 being elected circuit court judge.

“To get the final tally that I was elected here in Dane County was amazing. And I know most of that would have never happened if I hadn’t been at UW to get my law degree.”

His is a story of determination and perseverance that he hopes will help others learn to believe in their potential and work for their dreams.

“I’m hoping that through my life, they see one example of many examples — Black, White, Latino, all kinds of different tapestries of people — who move through life in very traumatic ways, but are able to harness that spirit of energy because they’re pulling it from people who see them when they can’t see themselves,” he said.

“There are individuals that are running around us, living around us, that are diamonds in the rough. It’s up to us to see them for who they are, or most importantly, see them for what they can become.”

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Title image showing the words "Why I Love UW" float over a wide view of the Wisconsin Capitol building with people walking on State Street below.This is the second in a series of short films titled “Why I Love UW,” created by award-winning filmmaker Alex Miranda Cruz of Bravebird, and produced by the UW–Madison Division of Diversity, Equity & Educational Achievement. 

The films, which were commissioned in the spring of 2019, feature the voices of diverse alumni describing in their own words how UW–Madison changed their lives.

Watch the full series at diversity.wisc.edu/why-i-love-uw