As I choose my class schedule for my last semester of UCLA Law School, I can’t help but reflect on all of my experiences over the years and those whom have helped me get to where I am today. The If Given A Chance Award has been providing me with support for the last 8 years, during the most financially challenging years of my life. Being a first-generation college student with a parent that is unable to assist me financially has forced me to do two things: take on part-time jobs, and seek outside funding in order to cover costs that financial aid will not. It is difficult to be at an institution where financial hardships are faced by only a few students and where many are privileged in the sense that the only stresses they face are academic. If Given A Chance has helped lessen my stresses, and I thank both the Board and the many donors for all they have done to assist me over the years.
The road has been long. I graduated from Vintage High School in 2000 and from UC Berkeley in 2004. I obtained two Bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and Chicana/o Studies. I spent a year studying in Barcelona, two summers doing labor organizing and research, and a summer at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy at Princeton University. I graduated from Berkeley in 2004 and my father passed away 7 months later, during my first semester of law school. I withdrew from school, returned to Napa and worked for the Education as a Second Language Program at the Napa Valley College while assisting my mother financially. I returned to law school as a member of both the Public Interest Law and Policy Program and Critical Race Studies Programs and became Co-Chair of the La Raza Law Student’s Association as well as the Pacific Region Coordinator for the National Latina/o Law Student’s Association. I volunteered to assist a homeless Hurricane Katrina Victim for a semester helping her obtain almost $80,000 more in aid, and have recently completed a Clerkship with the Public Defender’s Office of Los Angeles County. My goal is to eventually make my way back up to the Bay Area since, with my mother’s recent diagnosis of breast cancer, I realize how important it is for me to go back home. My immediate post-law school plans are to work for the Public Defender’s Office and to eventually serve the criminal defense and education needs of both detained, and recently released youth through representation and advocacy.