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Jachele Vélez '07

Photo of Jachele Vélez '07

Associate Counsel, WNBA 

Education: Columbia University, Hispanic studies and history; Georgetown University, master’s degree in sports industry management; Columbia Law School

What I’m Doing Now: I’m the associate counsel for the WNBA, where along with the general counsel, I’m responsible for the legal affairs of the WNBA. This includes collective bargaining with WNBA players, the Board of Governors and ownership matters, league expansion, investigations, legal issues arising from the league’s various commercial relationships, and player and team matters. I also cover governance and bargaining for the NBA’s G League. Switching from working at a big law firm to an in-house sports attorney role is a bit of a learning curve. This was due partly to how I was trained at Kent Place, but I love being given a large problem and picking it apart into smaller pieces to solve it. So, it's been a great ride thus far. 

How KPS Helped Me Get Here: Kent Place was where I learned that I could be good at more than one thing while also realizing that I wasn’t going to be the best at everything. And that’s okay. In law, it’s hard to be a woman, particularly a woman of color, and particularly in sports. But what comes naturally to me, and what I learned at Kent Place, is that taking risks and putting myself in those spaces is half the battle. 

Favorite Kent Place Memory: My mother knew she had a really precocious kid and didn’t necessarily know how to get her where she needed to go in life. So on a rainy Tuesday in August, she drove me to Kent Place and knocked on the door. Nancy Humick was the director of admission at the time. She welcomed us in and talked to us, let me know about the school, and gave me an informal interview on the spot. This spoke volumes to my family and me about the nature of the school. Kent Place met me where I was, saw me as an individual, and appreciated me for my unique talents, even as a rain-soaked 13-year-old.  

My Biggest Failure and Most Important Lesson: I competed in scholarship pageants in high school. In my junior year at Kent Place, I had to fly out of state five or six times during the academic year after winning a national pageant that year. My Kent Place teachers were super supportive. I remember taking my SATs in Nashville following a pageant! I continued to compete throughout college and grad school in the Miss America Organization and was a first runner-up twice in the Miss District of Columbia. Those losses changed my perspective. I had this big goal and I didn’t achieve it, but it ended up being the subject of my law school admission essay. What do you gain from losing? I learned about my limits, my full capabilities, my drive, and, beyond all else, my resilience—so much more than I had if I had won. 

Advice for My KPS Sisters: Try the thing you’re not great at. In my junior year at Kent Place, my biology teacher cornered me in the hall and said, “You should be in my AP Bio class and you’re not here.” She was right. I was afraid of doing the thing that was hard, of not doing it the best. You’re never going to have an environment like Kent Place or perhaps college that’s as welcoming and accepting of trying new things and making mistakes, so go for it.