A MESSAGE FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR:
Trailblazers to Bridge Builders
I am thrilled to help lead Law School … Yes We Can. For me, this new mission is personal, and fueled by my passion to help our Fellows overcome the obstacles and the steep professional hill that lies ahead, as they pursue their college careers and ultimate goal of law school.
The stories of our Fellows are mine, too. As a Mexican immigrant to the United States, my childhood was one of flitting between Spanish and English, along with summers and holidays with the abuelitos, tios y tias, primos y primasback “home.” I had a culturally rich childhood, with rules like “Spanish at home, English everywhere else” but there also was a constant emotional pull in myriad directions by two very different cultures. And yet, my parents and dual culture taught me at a very early age the value of hard work. My dad used to say, “El hombre nació para trabajar” which means, “Men were born to work.” To which I would say, “And what about the women? … We work too!”
I have worked hard, all of my life, and have encountered the unique and unexpected obstacles that many of our Fellows experience. My college orientation offers a poignant example of what I hope we can help our Fellows overcome. On my first day, I walked into the room and saw no one who looked like me. I felt so isolated. My confidence plummeted. For reasons that are hard to fully articulate, my identity and self-worth were so shaken that I returned home and missed the first week of classes.
I experienced these insecurities even though my parents had prepared me for college, and even though I had exposure to different professional and business environments as a result of internships that I had during high school. But, nothing had prepared me for the culture shock of mainstream university life. I spent most of my time, as many of our Fellows do, dedicated primarily to my studies and to working to support myself. I now realize that I missed important opportunities to build a network that could have enhanced or propelled my career.
I have never allowed these personal difficulties to define me although, years later, I realized that having to face and overcome these obstacles helped me become a stronger person. Throughout college, I managed to secure an eclectic array of experience in retail, legal and medical clinics, and public relations that reinforced my passion for the law. I began with a career as a commercial litigator at a prestigious firm. And, I have used my legal skills in many roles since then, because my inquisitive nature and desire to “take another hill” have meant that once I establish myself in one career, it’s time for the next.
Over time, I have learned to tackle the self-doubt that I faced at that college orientation by forming relationships with my colleagues, superiors, and others who genuinely wanted to help my advancement. My allies, my mentors, and most importantly, my sponsors took a chance on a spunky, ambitious lawyer, and presented me with opportunities to learn new areas of the law, manage more senior lawyers, build legal/regulatory teams, run cable systems, and eventually take on the ultimate challenge: transforming a culture in a highly complex Fortune 50 company into a more inclusive workplace.
I built my career though personal sacrifices, my family’s support, an intense work ethic, relationships with key stakeholders, and a culture of mentorship and sponsorship with my teams and colleagues, all of which helped me achieve unparalleled results. I hope to infuse these same values into Law School … Yes We Can as it admits its sixth class of Fellows into the program. I am eager to help more of our Fellows follow the path of Viry Valdez and Tomás Manriquez (currently 1Ls at DU and CU, respectively) and Jasmine Luna (soon to be 1L student at CU), all members of the inaugural LSYWC Class of 2014.
What I lacked early in my career is precisely what Law School … Yes We Can offers: guidance and support from law students and practicing lawyers who can truly empathize and assist the Fellows in navigating the barriers they will face, because they too have travelled similar paths. Law School … Yes We Can also cultivates a community of legal professionals—from all types of backgrounds—who are committed to creating a more diverse and inclusive legal workforce in Colorado.
In assuming the responsibility of Executive Director of Law School … Yes We Can, I have come to see that the program is composed of a community of trailblazers and bridge builders. The trailblazing is easy to witness: most of our Fellows will be the first in their families to graduate from high school, college, or law school. Yet, equally important is the work of our bridge builders: our Board, our Mentors, and our Sponsors who connect our Fellows to a strong support network and provide a safety net to ensure that our Fellows can take the hill, overcome their obstacles, and develop both the skills and the social capital that they need to become successful lawyers and leaders in the Colorado community.
“Sí, Se Puede” is a phrase born of farmworkers, who, under the leadership of the UFW, César Chávez, and Dolores Huerta, fought valiantly for equal protection under the law. As a result of the efforts of the UFW, “Sí, Se Puede” has become well known as a call that engenders hope and inspiration in those who face similar battles. We thank the UFW, whom we acknowledge to be the sole and exclusive owner of the Trademark SI SE PUEDE, for granting us a limited license to use“Sí, Se Puede” in connection with our efforts to recruit, in Colorado, students of Hispanic or Latino descent for our law school pipeline program. For more information about the programs offered by the UFW, please see UFW’s webpage (www.ufw.org); UFW Foundation’s webpage (www.ufwfoundation.org); and UFWF’s immigration services webpage (www.sisepuede.org)