Every Tuesday in property law class, the scent of chlorine followed Dalton Sousa ’25 as he entered the room with fellow rising 2L Gary Blum. The two had just come from a grueling workout in the pool. Sousa exhibited the same determination in swimming laps as he did in his legal studies—because, for him, lives were on the line.
The lives of those battling cancer were on his mind when Sousa raced into the cold waters of Pleasure Bay in South Boston on Saturday, August 13, for the two-mile swim as part of Swim Across America Boston to raise funds for early-stage clinical trials in the development of new cancer treatments. Also on Sousa’s mind was his mother who was diagnosed earlier this year with pancreatic cancer and who watched her son from the shores of Castle Island.
“Cancer and chemotherapy are so hard to endure,” says Sousa. So far, his mother’s treatments have held her cancer at bay, but that’s little solace for Sousa who dreams of a day when there won’t be a need for such debilitating treatments. While he remains focused on his legal studies (his mother tells him that’s her greatest wish), he is determined to do what he can to relieve the suffering. And that’s what keeps him swimming, even in 64-degree waters. “I figure I’m doing the easy part,” says Sousa who was a competitive swimmer at Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island, before attending Cornell Law School.
So far, Sousa has raised more than $16,000 for Swim Across America Boston, with funds going to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Mass General Hospital for Children Cancer Center. Donations are still welcome through his personal webpage.
Making a difference and bettering lives also drove Sousa to law school. At Roger Williams University, he majored in political science and was founder and president of Justice in Action Athletic Alliance, an organization dedicated to inclusion, advocacy, and education on social justice issues. He believes strongly that a law degree will allow him to contribute in countless ways to advocate for and achieve more equitable opportunities for Black and brown communities.
Recently, Sousa was selected as a Charles J. Beard II Diversity Fellowship recipient by the law firm Foley Hoag, where he is working as a summer associate. The fellowship is granted to outstanding first-year law students from backgrounds underrepresented in the legal profession. Sousa is also president of Cornell’s Black Law Student’s Association.
Sousa’s determination to use his law degree to increase opportunities dovetails with his commitment to fighting cancer. He knows that Black communities have higher rates of cancer and less access to quality care or clinical trials. “These health care inequities need to be addressed, and there’s no one better suited to hold those accountable than good lawyers.”