With an introduction by Neil Fulton, J.D., USD Knudson School of Law Dean

Since 1901, the Knudson School of Law has produced lawyer leaders for South Dakota and beyond. Continuing that tradition is our central focus, and I am excited for you to meet four members of our next generation.

These are four exceptional students with diverse backgrounds and interests. More importantly, they are reflective of the character and quality of our student body. They come from big and small towns, from South Dakota to Texas, have come back to law school after time in the world or immediately through our accelerated 3 + 3 program. Some are first-generation college students and others are from multiple-generation lawyer families. We have as many compelling student stories as we have students. Although our students are each unique, they are uniformly talented, motivated and on track to put their skills as lawyers to work shaping the world around them for the better in the courtrooms, boardrooms and committee rooms where important decisions are made. I am excited every day to hear the dreams of our students and see them start making those dreams reality.

The Knudson School of Law has been a community of excellence, service and leadership since its beginnings. In that driving message behind what we do, the first word – community – is every bit as important as the other three, and that community is sustained and energized by our students. I hope you enjoy getting to know our community a bit better through the stories of these four remarkable students.

Angelica Cruz

Angelica Cruz standing next to podium

As a future lawyer with a heart for public service, Angelica Cruz plans to help others in any capacity she can with her law degree.

“Public service is a way for me to help my community and pay it forward,” she explained. “I have learned that public service is more than enforcing the law – it includes city attorneys and public defenders. From my experience, that work is equally rewarding and necessary for communities across the nation. From the start of my legal career, I have been vocal about my interest in public service, and as I continue through law school, that goal has not changed.”

Cruz said she was called to become a lawyer after watching a news segment.

“A Black man spent over 30 years in jail for a murder he did not commit, and the prosecuting attorney’s reaction to that exoneration was not one of remorse or disgust at the criminal justice system, but one of indifference,” explained Cruz. “It was at that moment I felt compelled to become a lawyer.

“I want to be of use to my community. I want them to be able to come to me, or at least to know a lawyer, to receive help,” she continued.

The service-minded attitude that is apparent in Cruz extends to her service to the law school and her classmates. She is president of the Black Law Students Association and president of the Native American Law Student Association. Cruz is also involved in the First-Generation Law Society, OUTLaws, and Family Law and Child Advocacy.

“In coming to law school, I wanted to be involved in my community. I care about the issues these organizations strive to solve and that made it easier for me to integrate into the community,” Cruz said. “It can be stressful at times being involved in so many organizations while trying to balance the obligations of my organizations and completing my homework. However, a positive aspect of being involved in multiple organizations is meeting people who care about the issues I care about and are doing the work. That is inspiring.”

In addition to her packed schedule, Cruz is currently a judicial extern for the Federal District Court under Judge Karen E. Schreier. During the fall 2022 semester, she interned with the Minnehaha Public Defenders office, working alongside public defenders protecting constitutional rights. Cruz worked for the City of Sioux Falls in the Human Relations department of the City Attorney’s Office during the summer of 2022.

“Gaining hands-on experience has been beneficial in shaping me into the advocate I want to be for my community,” Cruz said.

Originally from Austin, Texas, Cruz earned a Bachelor of Arts in history and African and African diaspora studies from the University of Texas at Austin.

The USD Knudson School of Law appealed to Cruz because of its affordability.

“I come from a big city where simply living is expensive,” Cruz said. “Here I can afford to live close to school and get a great education.”

Brooklyn Bollweg

Brooklyn Bollweg standing in lecture hall walkway

She may be following in the footsteps of her mother – Pamela Reiter – by becoming a lawyer and attending the Knudson School of Law, but Brooklyn Bollweg was motivated to pursue this path for other reasons as well; she felt compelled to join USD's law school because of the individualized experience it could offer.

“I initially had zero interest in law school growing up because I saw what my mom did. As a litigator, she spent many hours reading through massive discovery binders that she would bring home to prepare for long days in court, and I wanted nothing to do with it as a little kid,” said Bollweg, a Sioux Falls native. “However, as my interests changed, I quickly decided that USD would be the perfect place to pursue a law degree. It is very special to attend law school at the same place your parent attended, but I also think it’s afforded me a unique opportunity to make this my own path.”

As an undergraduate student at USD, Bollweg played on the women’s volleyball team for three seasons. She made the tough decision to step away from the sport to pursue her law degree through the Knudson School of Law’s 3+3 program. Her first year of law school certified her undergraduate degree in criminal justice.

“I originally wanted to go to law school because I loved my undergraduate professors at USD, and many of them encouraged me to consider law school,” Bollweg said. “I had no intention of going to law school until COVID hit and I spent more time at home with my mother. After seeing the impact she has had on her clients – and the subsequent impact that her clients have had on her – I decided to take the LSAT and apply for law school.”

Saving a year of her undergraduate degree with the 3+3 program was not the only draw for Bollweg to attend the Knudson School of Law – she said it was also the small class sizes and the close relationships the school has with the community and the state bar.

“The professors here are extremely accessible, and it is apparent that each and every one of them wants to see us succeed,” she added.

As her first year of law school comes to an end, Bollweg said it has been a challenging but rewarding experience.

“The first semester felt like drinking out of a fire hose, but knowing that your 85 classmates are going through the same thing makes it easier to keep pushing through,” said Bollweg. “I have found that the work does not get easier, you just get better at managing your responsibilities and your time. Sitting down and focusing for three to four hours seems more commonplace, and you get used to doing the work each day. I think the most challenging mental aspect is showing up each day with a fresh mind and a consistent work ethic. Choosing to show up each day is the most important quality one could have during law school.”

Bryce Drapeaux

Bryce Drapeaux standing in front of window

Bryce Drapeaux is one of those students who spent some time in the world before pursuing a law degree.

After graduating from North Dakota State University in 2013, Drapeaux accepted an opportunity to work for Teach for America and was placed in South Dakota on the Lower Brule Reservation and then on the Yankton Sioux Reservation.

“I was completely set on being a teacher,” said Drapeaux. But after teaching for eight years, and after a tragedy befell his family, Drapeaux wanted a career change and decided to attend law school.

“My wife gave birth to our firstborn son, Brycen, in 2019, then at five months, we found out he had cancer, and he ended up passing away,” Drapeaux explained. “That was in March of 2020. We were in lockdown with COVID-19, and I was still teaching. My wife and I were working from home, mourning our son, then sometime later that year, I told my wife that we had to make a change. So, I started studying for the LSAT, applied to USD – I didn’t apply anywhere else – and I got accepted. Brycen is the reason I’m here.”

For all law students, the first year of law school is a time of transition and adjustment to the workload of courses and homework. For Drapeaux, he and his wife welcomed a second son, Brayden, and fostered a child.

“My first year of law school was a whirlwind, raising two kids. It was challenging, but it was worth it,” Drapeaux said.

In addition to balancing his family and a full courseload, Drapeaux stays busy as a second-year law student with an externship with South Dakota Supreme Court Justice Mark E. Salter and a research assistantship with Dean Fulton.

Drapeaux also held an externship with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the General Counsel’s office in the fall 2022 semester and interned with Judge Schreier in the summer of 2022.

“There’s nothing better than learning directly from a judge or justice, because they’re the ones that are literally telling us what the law is. They explain the law to us, so I have been fortunate to be able to go right to the source.

“My education has been so rounded because of my externships and internships. I’m not only learning about the law, but I’m also learning how to treat other people in the profession, how to act, how to treat people the right way. What to do when your back is against the wall, how to respond when serious circumstances arise. They keep their cool in tough situations,” Drapeaux added.

Though he isn’t set on one particular area of the law, Drapeaux has a personal interest in Indian Law. As an enrolled member of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska and after living on two of South Dakota’s reservations, Drapeaux is passionate about a field that he says often gets overlooked.

“I’m excited to be able to continue these conversations about Indian Law on a regional and national level, especially regarding an area not pursued by many folks,” said Drapeaux.

Turner Blasius

Turner Blasius standing over metal ledge with hands together

Knowing the dean of the law school came from a small, rural South Dakota town like himself was one of the reasons Turner Blasius wanted to go to the USD Knudson School of Law.

“There’s a lot of good things about the USD Knudson School of Law,” said Blasius. “One of the biggest things is affordability. Dean Fulton, who grew up an hour away from me, was another big reason I came to law school.”

Originally from Kimball, South Dakota, Blasius earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business with a minor in agronomy and a master’s degree in economics from South Dakota State University, where he also played for the football team.

After an advisor encouraged him to go to law school, Blasius decided to give it a try, and as his confidence grew, he found a home at the Knudson School of Law.

“Law school has taught me how to think critically and differently. It has changed how I think about things and has helped me view things in a more positive way,” he said.

The law school is also where Blasius met his wife, Alyssa Lorenzo Blasius.

“Alyssa’s from California and a grade behind me. I’m an admissions ambassador, and at orientation, I tried to talk to her and introduce her to campus and make sure she was prepared for her classes,” Blasius explained. “And then we got married in September 2022.”

As a sixth-generation South Dakotan, Blasius plans to eventually open a law firm in Kimball with Lorenzo Blasius.

“In rural South Dakota, there’s a lot of legal aid that isn’t sought out because it’s not available, or a person has to go travel to Sioux Falls. They would probably seek someone out if they were close by or knew someone,” said Blasius. “I’m looking forward to helping the people who are my friends, family and the extensions of my community.”

Blasius said the connections the Knudson School of Law has with the State Bar of South Dakota have set him up for a successful future.

“We get to make connections with alumni and the bar at the law school because there are always South Dakota employers coming down, and we get to meet people who we’re going to work with,” Blasius said. “The respect attorneys have for one another is what makes South Dakota really special.”

Blasius has had firsthand experience with the South Dakota attorneys through his internships and externships.

Blasius interned with the South Dakota Attorney General’s office in the summer of 2021 and worked for Boyce Law Firm in Sioux Falls in the summer of 2022. In the fall of 2022, he externed for South Dakota Supreme Court Justice Janine M. Kern. This summer, he will be a clerk for Federal Magistrate Judge Mark Moreno.

“The best part of the real-world experience has been the mentorship,” said Blasius. “Everyone had an open-door policy, and I got a lot of good constructive criticism. It was great.”

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