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This mentorship program helps first-generation college students get to law school

The program was founded by the Honorable Christine M. Arguello of the Federal District Court, for low-income and first-generation college students

DENVER — First-generation college students are charging into law school with the help of a US District Court judge in Colorado.

Law School…Yes, We Can (LSYWC) has worked with over 50 for low-income and first-generation college students who want to continue on to law school.

LSYWC created a diversity pipeline and mentoring program. The program was founded by the Honorable Christine M. Arguello of the Federal District Court.

“The main purpose is to increase diversity in the Colorado legal profession,” said LSYWC Executive Director Maria G. Arias. “In the legal profession there has been a lot of progress made with women but people of color, particularly in top-tier law firms and top-tier schools, there’s still a disparity.”

Credit: Byron Reed

The program has a class size of 12-15 students ("fellows") per year so that each receives one-on-one attention all the way through college.  Each “fellow” has at least three mentors: two experienced attorneys and a law student.

“The goal of this program is to build that support network as well as the training and teaching the soft skills of professionalism that are so important for a career in law,” Arias said.

“It can be intimidating for a person to walk into a place where no one looks like you, said mentor Adelita DeHerrera.  “Programs like this are especially important because we have under-representation of people of color in the legal field.”

Credit: Byron Reed

DeHerrera is Assistant General Counsel for DaVita Dialysis Company in Denver and said the pipeline is critical for the future success of her profession.

“It’s a commitment to our community and making sure that the trails that have been blazed by people like Judge Arguello don’t go dormant,” DeHerrera said.

“I’m a first generation so I didn’t know how to get to law school…even how to get to college,” said first-year law student Viry Valdez. 

Credit: Byron Reed

Valdez just wrapped up her first year of law school at the University of Denver and said that ever since she was in middle school growing up in Commerce City, she knew that she was going to pursue a career in law.

“It was uplifting to know that they knew what I was going through and they knew where I was going and how to get there," Valdez said.

Their mentors come from all areas of the law profession, including three Colorado Supreme Court Justices, with a goal of creating a legal community in Colorado just as diverse as the people they serve.

Credit: Byron Reed

“Our students are unique because most of them come from underprivileged backgrounds so they come with a passion and intensity,” Arias said. “They’re attuned to the needs of the multi-cultural communities and that’s really important given the nature of the workforce.”

For more information, click here lawschoolyeswecan.org.

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