Thirteen students from The University of Texas-Pan American will have the opportunity this summer to learn more about law school and get a head start on the law school application process by their participation in one of two scholar's programs offered by the Council on Legal Education Opportunity (CLEO), both designed to prepare more minority students to enter legal fields.
The students participated in the Sophomore Summer Institute (SSI) and Achieving Success in the Application Process (ASAP) programs - two of CLEO's highly competitive programs that help prepare undergraduates for careers in law.
"Our mission is to diversify the legal community by helping students throughout the nation achieve the goal of going to law school and ultimately becoming attorneys," Lynda Cevallos, attorney and CLEO pre-law coordinator, said. "Students should participate because it gives them an opportunity to learn what to expect in law school and our programs provide them with the skills and tools to prepare them for it."
Held on law campuses throughout the country, CLEO programs are offered at little or no cost for academically qualified candidates and help students select a law school, draft a personal statement, choose sources for letters of recommendation, and prepare for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).
Cesar Palma and Yvonne Flores, both UTPA sophomores, attended the SSI at Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University in Houston, a four-week residential program designed to bring together students of diverse racial, ethnic, socioeconomic and geographic backgrounds and provide them with the training necessary to successfully enter law school.
Flores, who is majoring in sociology and minoring in criminal justice, said the program helped her realize how rigorous attending law school would be.
"I believe the program is very beneficial to students from UTPA because it will expose them to an education that is not easily attained in the Valley, since there are currently no law schools in our area," Flores said. "Not everyone gets a chance to see what it is like first hand before actually applying. I am very thankful that I am able to get this opportunity through the CLEO program."
Eleven other UTPA students were selected to attend the ASAP program this month including Cesar Aguilar, Francesca Falqueza, Martha Vera, Karia Garcia, Grecia De Leon, Berenice Garcia, Ian Ochoa, Nayla Dominguez, Mayelo Bustos, David Marroquin and Ashley Cedillo.
The ASAP program, held in either Los Angeles or Atlanta, Ga., provides assistance with selecting a law school, drafting an effective personal statement, choosing sources for letters of recommendations, mentoring opportunities with CLEO students in law school and preparing for the LSAT, among other benefits. Hotel accommodations and meals are provided by the program. The participant is responsible for getting to the program location, but a $200 travel stipend is awarded to help offset costs.
Karina Munoz, a senior with a double major in English and criminal justice, participated in the ASAP program last summer and said the program really opened her eyes to what she should expect.
The Mission, Texas native said as an undergraduate she did not really know what the process of applying to law school entailed.
"The process which we must go through in order to have our application packet ready for the prospective law schools is a lengthy process and if you do not know the steps of preparing a successful packet, then you will be the one at a loss," she said. "This program gives you an inside view of how admission deans look at the application packets for their prospective students."
Munoz attended the program in Los Angeles and said the topics and discussions were very helpful as were the networking opportunities.
"This program also gave us insight to our first year of law school. We had a panel of current law students come and talk to us about their experiences," she said. "We also had a session about financing our law education. That was a very informational program."
Munoz will be taking the LSAT in October 2008 and plans to apply to several law schools.
"One thing I know for sure is that I am not going to limit my options to law schools in Texas. I have the U.S.A to look at," she said.
For more information about applying contact the UTPA Office of Career Services at 956/381-2243 or visit the CLEO Web site at www.cleoscholars.org