Graduation Luncheon Celebrates UC Hastings First Generation Scholars

 

Graduating law students who are the first generation in their families to go to law school were celebrated at a luncheon this spring.

UC Hastings Law held its first-ever First Generation graduation celebration, where students heard from law school administrators and new UC Hastings Board of Director member Andrew Houston ’07, who shared his experiences of being a first generation law student.

“My parents were from a humble background,” he told the students. “We were definitely a blue collar family. Nobody went to college, I didn’t have help with homework.”

Houston, who graduated from community college and UC Berkeley before entering Hastings, said he benefitted from the support of the LEOP program when he attended law school. Now, as a member of the Black Alumni Council and UC Hastings Board of Directors, he encouraged the soon-to-graduate law students to network with alumni, “They would love to interact with you, they want to see you do well.”

He also told the 3L students not to be deterred in their career when things don’t always go their way, “You’ve got to go through the journey. Sometimes it goes well and sometimes it doesn’t. . . You have to adapt and adjust to it.”

The UC Hastings First Generation program kicked off Feb. 1 and supports law students who are the first in their families to go to college. It offers students workshops, mentoring, alumni engagement and networking events. UC Hastings Chancellor & Dean David Faigman has praised the program, “We are not only proud to be the law school of such trailblazers, but we continue to work hard, and take pride, in serving the trailblazers of today and tomorrow, including current and future first generation students at UC Hastings.”

At the graduation event, LEOP Director Elizabeth McGriff also spoke to the students and reminded them that they possess resilience, drive, and adapting skills that not all lawyers have, “This is the beginning of what will be storied careers.” She encouraged them to hold true to their beliefs and to be true to themselves, “Your profession is full of power, privilege, and responsibility. Use that. Be a credit to yourself, to your profession and UC Hastings.”

Vice-Chancellor Jenny Kwon reminded the students that their diversity enriches UC Hastings and will enrich their future places of employment. She encouraged the students to be proud of themselves and enjoy their accomplishment of graduating from law school, “Make something of it, make it worth whatever sacrifices helped you get here.”

Students also heard from two students, Jose Meneses and Denise Pritchard, both Class of 2022. Meneses said he hoped their success would set an example, “We’re going to continue to open the door for other first generation people.”

Pritchard, who talked about growing up in foster care, acknowledged the “toughness, grit and hard work” of her fellow students, “We all have this generational opportunity to transcend our lives and the law. We are not good, we are great.”

The event was organized and hosted by Mario Ernesto Lopez ’15, the Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Initiatives, who oversees the UC Hastings First Generation program. He shared his story of being the first in his family to go to college and professional school. “A global pandemic didn’t stop you from going to law school,” he told the graduates. “I speak to you now as a fellow alumni.”

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