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TJSL La Raza Law Students Host Annual “King Chavez Day”

April 10, 2014

Over fifty college-bound high school students spent the day at TJSL on March 25 for La Raza Law Students Association’s annual “King Chavez Day” program. During their visit, the high school students from King Chavez High School participated in a mock trial, toured TJSL, sat in law classes and met La Raza members who volunteered to mentor them throughout the day.

“Of the many La Raza events I have helped put together over the past three years, King Chavez Day is my favorite La Raza tradition because our entire organization comes together to make a huge impact in our community,” said La Raza President and event organizer Samantha Morales (3L).

“Though hosting two high school classes this year was certainly a tall order, the event was a huge success thanks to the collaboration and support from TJSL Admissions Office, La Raza Lawyers Association, our volunteers and Professors Nancy Johnson and Dennis Saccuzzo who opened up their classroom to let the students sit in,” said Morales.

“Many of the students have no other exposure to mentors or role models that look, talk and come from the same neighborhoods as they do,” said Juanita Guillen (3L). “Coming to our law school and hearing our stories shows them how life can be different, how dreams of achieving a higher education can become a reality, and it makes them look at their own situation in a different light.”

Andres Matzner (3L) provided students with scholarship and financial aid resources and TJSL Assistant Director of Admissions, Justin Cruz gave a presentation on the college and law school admissions process on behalf of the Law School Admission Counil (LSAC).

La Raza drove their inspirational message home again with a law student panel discussion and a life-experience demonstration where the volunteers shared some of the obstacles they have had to overcome on the road to law school.

“The life-experience exercise was my highlight for King Chavez Day,” said Erin Pacichkul (2L). “The students laughed, joked, and were definitely surprised by us demonstrating our varying life experiences from our family’s socio-economic status to citizenship to peer pressure. It was a fun and relatable moment for everyone in the room and I think it sent a strong message to the students that they are not so different from us.”

The law student panelists this year were Andres Matzner (3L), Jesse Magana (1L), Karen Barragan (2L), Javier Vargas (3L) and Maggie Gaan (1L).

“It is such a humbling experience to be able to share my story with young kids that may be going through what I have overcome,” said La Raza Vice President Karen Barragan (2L). “Being able to give them hope of what they can look forward to if they work hard is truly an invaluable experience for me.”

“King Chavez once again was an amazing experience and being a panelist this year was even better because it allowed me to speak to the kids and hopefully inspire at least one kid to set goals and accomplish those goals,” shared Matzner.

“It was such an incredibly opportunity to speak with the students from King Chavez High School,” said Vargas. “Even if we inspired only one student to consider higher education, that alone is enough to justify the time and effort invested in this program.”

“I had the opportunity to let the students know that having an open-mind to learning new things is the key to success,” said Gaan. “It is okay to ask for help sometimes when you are struggling and that they can do anything if they dedicate themselves to it. A couple students at the end of the panel came up to me and personally thanked me and told me they couldn’t wait to come back next year, that simply made my day.”

“King Chavez Day is incredibly rewarding for us as law students and extremely powerful for them,” said Morales. “I challenged them to reach for the dream that to everyone else seems unattainable. We all did. Those of us who have made it this far carry the responsibility to continue paving the way for future generations – which is exactly what La Raza represents.”