Professor Omari Simmons has a passion to help young people succeed

Wake Forest University Law Professor Omari Simmons is normally a reserved and reflective man. But his passion, whether teaching the ins and outs of contract law, corporate governance, or helping a high school student get into college, is helping young people succeed. So when he starts talking about the Simmons Memorial Foundation Inc., his eyes light up and he becomes noticeably animated.

“It’s been such a great experience,” he says. “We’ve been able to provide vulnerable students with the tools and the information they need to secure a higher education worthy of their potential.”

More than a decade ago, Simmons founded the grassroots nonprofit organization in honor of his late mother, who was an educator in rural southern Delaware. Back then Simmons noticed that “too many talented students from vulnerable backgrounds failed to attend college, were grossly underrepresented at selective colleges, or were simply not in the applicant pools for selective universities,” Simmons explains. “Even more disturbing was that these students’ capabilities remain underestimated, unnoticed, or underdeveloped.”

Since then SMF has touched the lives of hundreds of students in Delaware and beyond, providing a range of services including college consulting, career seminars, college visits, standardized test preparation and scholarships. The foundation with the tagline “Developing Potential on the Periphery” functions as a non-traditional feeder system for selective colleges assisting vulnerable students, many of whom are first generation college students.

Too many talented students from vulnerable backgrounds failed to attend college.

“SMF has no permanent employees and thrives on the human capital of its volunteers and their diverse range of experiences, talents and perspectives,” he said. “SMF programs have prepared students for college admission and nurtured habits of mind that are essential for high achievement in diverse and complex learning communities. As a result, students who were not even in the applicant pools of selective colleges are now offered admission and matriculate at some of the most selective colleges and universities in the nation.”

SMF participants have been admitted to Wake Forest University, Brown University, Davidson College, Morehouse College, Swarthmore College, Spelman College, University of Virginia, Duke University, Georgetown University, Carnegie Mellon University, Cornell University, Howard University, UNC Chapel Hill, Hampton University, University of Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania.

Simmons asserts, “For me the most rewarding part of volunteering with SMF has been the relationships forged and witnessing the growth and achievements of former participants who are now leaders in their chosen careers and communities.”

Simmons hopes what started in rural southern Delaware over a decade ago can also have an impact in Winston-Salem. This spring SMF awarded one of its annual scholarships to a local high school student who will attend Harvard University this fall. And this fall SMF will initiate a college pipeline program serving Winston-Salem area high school students.

Prior to joining the law faculty in 2006, Simmons worked as corporate counsel for two multinational corporations and as an associate at a law firm in Washington, D.C. His wife, Kami, is a professor at the law school, and they have two young daughters. Simmons is also a board member of the Children’s Theatre of Winston-Salem.

To learn more about SMF please visit