News & Media

TJSL La Raza Law Students “Pay it forward”

Published: March 19, 2013
King Chavez
Samantha Morales 2L Leads the Opening Exercise

by Samantha Morales 2L

For most TJSL students, March 13 was just the day after midterms. But for the volunteers and panelists who helped La Raza Law Students Association put on its annual King Chavez High School College Day, the day was about paying it forward, sharing inspirational stories, and reflecting concrete and attainable goals to a new generation of college-bound students.

“Every student walked away knowing that they can, and will, meet their goals and to never give up,” said King Chavez High School counselor Stacey Praizner.

TJSL students were asked: “Take a step forward if either of your parents graduated college… if they owned the home you grew up in. Take a step back if money was an issue in your family growing up...if you were ever teased by your appearance… or if English was not your first language.” Eventually, all the TJSL students who participated in the icebreaker made it to the made up finish line, which represented law school. I used this powerful demonstration because my vision was for students to know others before them had overcome some of their same obstacles and challenges. More importantly, I wanted them to go home believing anything was possible, even law school. A mission accomplished and driven home thanks to the 25 volunteers who helped put on this event.

The junior and senior high school students began their day at TJSL by participating in a mock trial inside the Moot Courtroom using a fact pattern courtesy of San Diego La Raza Lawyer's Association. TJSL’s Director of Admissions, Tim Spearman delivered a heartfelt welcome encouraging them to go to college and to pursue a legal career.

Afterwards, La Raza members escorted the students on tours of the campus and law classes, in which they were graciously welcomed by Professors Steve Berenson and  Julie Greenberg, and Assistant Dean Arnold Rosenberg.

During the lunch hour, students attentively listened to the inspirational educational journeys of panelists Tara Almazan 2L, Leo Fuentes 1L, Justin Hall 2L, Armando Murillo Jr. 1L, Karen Barragan 2L and Christina Hebert 1L.

Ms. Praizner helped close the event by giving each high school student a chance to get up and offer their gratitude to the TJSL students who took time out of their busy days to mentor them.

“I have been on countless college visits over the last 10 years. Our visit to TJSL exceeded any visit or program I've seen for high school students,” said Praizner. “La Raza took mentoring and educating our students to another level by sharing their life stories about obstacles and challenges they faced.”

“We're passing you the torch now. Keep looking back and pay it forward by inspiring those that come behind you,” I said to them in my closing remarks.

“Students have asked if they can go back and/or re-connect with the TJSL students to tell them that they are now seriously considering law school because they were inspired by the TJLS students, and that they have a desire to help people. They want to be role models someday,” shared Praizner.

The ultimate reward is knowing that in only a few hours, we were able to make a difference in so many young lives.