La Raza Law Students Association’s abiding mission is to promote diversity in education and in the legal profession at large, but the organization is also a source of social support for its many members—a majority of whom are Latino or Latina.
“We want to make our voices heard at school and within the legal community,” said 3L Celia Guzman, La Raza co-chair. “We also want to create a safe space for like-minded people. I am Mexican-American and a first-generation law student. It’s nice to meet others with similar backgrounds.”
La Raza was named Student Organization of the Year for 2016–17. The group hosts a variety of activities, including speakers; networking outings; and most notably Day @ Law School, in which K–12 youth from schools in local low-income communities are invited to experience life as a law student at UC Hastings. Day @ Law School is staffed by student, faculty, and alumni volunteers and is held every fall.
“There are mock classes, divided by elementary, middle, and high school,” said 3L Mayra Hernandez, La Raza co-chair. “The students also get to participate in a mock trial and see panels with diverse attorneys. All the kids really enjoy it.”
Another flagship activity is Diversity Outreach Day, geared toward undergraduates. The spring event includes an admission workshop, mock classes, and student attorney panels; this year’s Diversity Outreach Day offered a Q&A with an alumnus about opportunities for undocumented law students.
The 2Ls and 3Ls also provide peer advice—mentoring relationships that can continue into the next school year and beyond. “A lot of incoming students freak out, thinking that law school is this impossible world to break into,” said Guzman. “These events tear down those barriers. We tell them, ‘We’re here; you can be too.’ ”
Although La Raza is more focused on community building than public policy, the organization’s board has discussed taking more of a stance, albeit with caution. “We’re trying to get more political; we’re just doing it carefully,” said Guzman. “Our current political climate has taken a lot of people aback, and they need emotional support more than anything.”
For Hernandez, working with La Raza has driven home the value of multiculturalism in the legal world. “I feel privileged to be able to promote diversity in the legal field,” she said, “not only for the UC Hastings community but for students outside our campus as well.”
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