Alumni Highlight: Peter Kanellias Returns to His Passion

Peter Kanellias, BAIN '12, Legal Studies
Peter Kanellias, BAIN '12, Legal Studies

Following his graduation from New Century College, Peter Kanellias (Legal Studies, 2012) “played it safe” and continued working in his family’s restaurant and the Four Seasons’ competitive Manager In Training program to advance his career as a restaurateur. Previously, Kanellias had enjoyed being immersed in his legal studies courses and internship in Arlington county court, yet he repeatedly said that law school “was not for him.” According to Kanellias, it took the insight of a stranger to leave the safety of the restaurant world and pursue his lifelong passion and apply to law school.

In fall 2014, Kanellias was talking with his father at the restaurant when an acquaintance joined their conversation. Eventually, the friend asked if he studied hospitality or restaurant management, to which Kanellias replied that he studied legal studies--a subject he enjoyed but chose not to pursue professionally. The friend pushed Kanellias to explain why he had abandoned a field where he excelled and felt energized. Kanellias had no convincing answer for the friend or for himself.

He said, “I didn’t know what I was running from, and I finally realized I had to do it, and got on the computer to look up LSAT test dates.”

Two months later, Kanellias had taken the law school admission test (LSAT), secured letters of recommendation and applied to 11 law schools. To date, Kanellias has been accepted at two programs and is energized to know that he will return to the classroom next fall.

Kanellias connects different life experiences with his recognition that law is his true calling. Since childhood, his parents noted that he always used rational, logical arguments to express his opinions. Later, his older brother struggled to find his own path, and Kanellias felt that the traditional safety nets of school and church failed to support his brother in the ways he needed.

Finally, as an intern in the Arlington County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, Kanellias saw more young people caught in a system that punished and isolated them but did not provide support to help them change and grow. Observing his mentor Judge Varoutsos in court, Kanellias realized how powerful one voice can be.

Kanellias said, “It was fascinating for me to see what a difference personality can make. [Judge Varoutsos] was always looking for the outcome that would have the most positive impact on the a kid's development and seemed to truly care and counsel each individual.”

Knowing that he will begin law school next fall, Kanellias hopes to spend this summer in Greece working as a counselor advising summer camp participants. Kanellias reflects that he learned much from his parents and mentors and wants to extend a helping hand to others who may need support.

Kanellias said, “Anytime I can help a kid out, I will. We all have to go through steps to reach different levels of wisdom within ourselves and sometimes we fall. You can’t stop kids from falling, but you have to be there for them when they fall.”

Kanellias does not know what type of law he will eventually practice, but having had time away from school, he feels better prepared to tackle the rigorous demands of law school. He said, “I knew with law school, I have to give it all my attention…I now know that every year I learn more and become more mature. I’m ready to take this on.”

Kanellias feels that his grounding through NCC in legal studies has put him on the right path to law school.

He said, “In NCC, every semester I would understand a little more and a little more. Junior year, something clicked and I really ‘got it.’ I know law school will be harder, but it suits my kind of learning. At NCC I was learning very deeply as I went through each class and making connections as I learned. I never needed to cram. I was always trying to learn more.”