News & Media

Student Profile: 2017 Valedictorian Kim Cruz

Published: May 05, 2017
  1. Where did you attend undergrad?

I attended undergrad at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas.

 

  1. When did you decide to go to law school and why?

I knew I wanted to become a lawyer since high school, when I realized most of the game‑changers and leaders throughout history have been lawyers.  I also knew I wanted to be a lawyer because growing up I always found myself standing up for my younger sisters.  Becoming a lawyer allows me to advocate for even more people and impact positive change.

 

  1. What State Bar Exams do you plan on taking?

I will be taking the California State Bar Exam.

 

  1. Private Practice, Solo, Government Agency, Other?

I will be entering the U.S. Department of Justice as a judicial law clerk in the Miami Immigration Court through the Attorney General’s Honors Program.

 

  1. What type of law do you plan to practice and why?

Early in my legal career, I would like to become a Federal Defender because through my internship there, I’ve experienced first‑hand how valuable the work is and how rewarding it can be.  Our justice system benefits from public defenders, who zealously defend the indigent accused of criminal offenses.  I want to be a part of that.  I also like that the work is challenging, meaningful, and allows me to be in court frequently.

 

  1. Do you feel Thomas Jefferson School of Law has adequately prepared you for success after graduation?

Absolutely yes.  I have learned so much at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and am extremely grateful for the education I received, as well as the constant encouragement and support from professors and staff.  I also took advantage of many opportunities throughout law school to participate in student organizations and attend various professional events.  I believe that my Thomas Jefferson School of Law legal education and the network I gained from attending Thomas Jefferson School of Law social and professional events are vital to being successful after graduation.

 

  1. Any fond memories that stand out for you about your time at Thomas Jefferson?

There are too many!  I’ll tell you the first three that come to mind. 

The first one is when Professor Bisom-Rapp gave her end-of-the-year speech to our Torts class.  That moment really touched me because 1L year can make you jaded, but her touching speech was a great reminder to keep fighting the good fight. 

The second memory is when Professor Rierson wore her Harry Potter robe and hat on Halloween.  That was a great reminder that you can be a successful and bright professional, without losing your sense of self and sense of humor. 

The third memory is perhaps my fondest one, and it is of my time as a teaching assistant for Civil Procedure.  I very much enjoyed helping fellow law students demystify civ pro, and it was so rewarding to hear the students tell me that my office hours helped them get a high grade.

 

  1. What type of internships did you work during school?

I am fortunate to have participated in various internships throughout law school.  My 1L spring semester, I interned at the ABA Immigration Justice Project.  My 1L summer, I was a Diversity Fellow and legal intern at Higgs Fletcher & Mack LLP.  My 2L fall, I interned at the San Diego Immigration Court, and for my 2L spring, I interned at Federal Defenders of San Diego, Inc.  My 2L summer, I interned at the Miami Immigration Court through the Department of Justice Summer Law Intern Program.  My 3L fall, I interned for District Judge Jose E. Martinez in the Southern District of Florida, where I assisted in drafting two published orders in the Federal Reporter.  Presently, I am interning for Magistrate Judge Mitchell D. Dembin in the Southern District of California.

 

  1. What community or volunteer work did you participate in?

I participated in La Raza’s annual King Chavez event, where we assist Latino high school students in a mock trial demonstration, guide them on a law school tour, and share with them our background and law school experiences.  I also mentored law students in preparing for exams during La Raza’s academic workshops.  I volunteered for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Application Renewal Event, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Clinic, and the ABA Immigration Justice Project.  I attended training to become a victim advocate for SAVE Legal Network of San Diego County, and I served as a volunteer Tagalog translator for a state court hearing on a civil harassment order.

 

  1. What do 1L Students need to know?

1L students need to know to tune out any negativity or stressor they may be facing, whether it’s coming from internal or external forces, and to take the time to focus on themselves and figure out their own individual learning style and study techniques.  Also, do the work—no shortcuts!  It is in the struggle where the learning happens.  I promise!

 

  1. What do 3L Students need to know?

3Ls need to know that meaningful relationships go a long way and make a world of difference.  This mindset is key in building lasting friendships with fellow classmates, as well as lasting networks in the professional arena.

 

  1. What are your 5-year goals?

After my two-year judicial clerkship at the Miami Immigration Court, I hope to obtain a federal clerkship here in the Southern District of California.  Then, I would love to start a career with Federal Defenders of San Diego, Inc.  I am also open to having a career in the private sector as a civil litigator because I very much enjoyed my internship at Higgs Fletcher & Mack LLP.  Whatever I may end up doing, my goal is always to be doing meaningful work that is contributing to a greater difference in the world.

 

  1. Who is your biggest inspiration?

My biggest inspiration is my 12‑year‑old sister, Chanelle.  Ever since she was born, something changed in me.  I all of a sudden wanted every decision I make to be one that makes the world a little brighter, a little friendlier, and a little less of a struggle for minorities, so that when it is her time to shine, nothing and no one can dull her sparkle.