Tiered Community Mentoring student mourned as bright star

Issue July/August 2016 By Anna Sims

The Massachusetts Bar Association is mourning the tragic loss of Nefertiti "Nef" Diasia Burton-Reeves, a standout student in its Tiered Community Mentoring Program (TCM) and a beloved mother, daughter and friend.

"Nef, as she was affectionately known, had remarkable grace and focus. … I know the legal community was honored to welcome such a bright and engaged young professional," said Allison Trzop, an associate at WilmerHale and Burton-Reeves' attorney mentor in the TCM Program. The TCM Program connects students at the high school, undergraduate and law school levels with legal professionals who provide them with mentorship as well as information on the legal field and its career opportunities.

Burton-Reeves, who passed away on April 11, was determined to become a lawyer, said her mother, Radeena Burton. Burton-Reeves became involved with the TCM Program following a recommendation from one of her professors at Roxbury Community College. She completed her Associate's Degree in Criminal Justice from Roxbury Community College in January and was in the process of earning a paralegal certificate. In the fall, she planned to attend Newbury College to receive a Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice.

"My daughter was a go-getter," Radeena said. "She climbed mountains and overcame many obstacles being a single mom [to her son, Jordan]. … She was on a mission to succeed."

That mission proved to be an inspiration to Radeena, who said her daughter was her "best friend." Radeena is currently enrolled at Goodwin College in East Hartford and plans to apply to the nursing program. "I would always tell her, 'Keep going. I'm right behind you. I'm following your lead,'" Radeena said.

According to Trzop, that inspiration was mutual. "[Nef] was driven by her love for her family, and woke up every day and went to sleep every night thinking about how to make her son proud," Trzop said.

Burton-Reeves touched many people during her life. Radeena said she was "overwhelmed" by number of visitors who came to see her daughter in the hospital - including many whom she did not know. "I was thinking to myself while I'm hugging these strangers, 'Oh my gosh, my baby knew all of these people?'" Radeena recalled. "The waiting area was packed. There were people sitting in the hallways."

Burton-Reeves was born in Boston on Sept. 2, 1993. In addition to her mother and her son, Jordan Giovani Burton-Reeves, she is survived by her father, Larry C. Reeves Sr., her brothers, Larry C. Reeves Jr. and Stephen M. Reeves, her grandparents, Richard Wallace and Theresa Burton, as well as many aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.

"She is truly missed every day," Radeena said. "Some people say, 'It gets easier every day.' No, it doesn't. I'm just so glad that my daughter trusted me with her legacy, which is my grandson, and I hope that he will follow in his mother's footsteps."

Trzop said: "We all deeply mourn her passing and are committed to ensuring her passion for education and service to others lives on."