While most 14-year-old students were still getting used to high school, Justin Abdilla was already the Wyandotte Roosevelt 2004 senior class president.
Fast forward to 2012 and the 23-year-old has now graduated from the School of Law at University of Loyola in Chicago and passed the Illinois Bar Exam on his first attempt. On Nov. 1, he was sworn in as an attorney in the state of Illinois.
Abdilla’s mother, Lynette Houser, said she recognized her son’s high level of intelligence and capacity for learning when he was very young.
“It was obvious from the time he was 2 years old that he was a very gifted child,” she said.
Abdilla was born with the last name Houser, but legally changed it five years ago to that of his late father, following through on a promise he made to do so, his mother said.
When Abdilla was a 10-year-old fourth grader, the Wyandotte Public Schools Board of Education decided he was fit to skip ahead to eighth grade, his mother said.
He continued on to high school, where he first attended Our Lady of Mount Carmel for a short time before transferring to Roosevelt.
Despite the age differences between him and his high school peers, and later in college, Abdilla said he was able to quickly make friends and adapt socially.
Following high school, he went on to attend University of Michigan-Dearborn on a full scholarship. Four years later, at the age most students are beginning their college days, Abdilla graduated summa cum laude, ultimately earning him a spot in law school at Loyola. After four years at Loyola, he was awarded his Juris Doctor degree upon graduation.
Before deciding on the law as a career path, however, Abdilla was already married. He said it was his wife Nicole who convinced him that working in the legal profession would be the best use of his skills.
“Really, what drove me to law was my wife Nicole's insistence that I could do more, distinguish myself and help people,” he said. “She made me realize that I could pursue greatness in the legal field.”
While seeking employment, Abdilla is currently living in Watervliet, which is in the far corner of southwestern Michigan, and is about a two-hour drive from Chicago.
He said his goal is to one day own his own law practice, possibly specializing in tax law, as he enjoys working with numbers.
Abdilla said he credits his entire hometown for helping him to stay focused and achieve so much at such a young age.
“It took Wyandotte to bring out the best in me,” he said. “It took the community, the teachers, my childhood buddies (and) my parents. Everyone who ever cared about me helped.”