Aug. 23, 2017 -- Forty-six graduates of the University of Houston Law Center's Pre-Law Pipeline Program were encouraged to follow their dreams of pursuing a legal education at a closing ceremony recently at the Student Center South on the University of Houston's main campus.
The theme of this year's Closing Ceremony, "Trailblazing," was selected by Leen Basharat, a student at the University of Houston. "I felt that nothing could better describe the 46 students selected into this program," said Basharat, one of the Pipeline Program students. "As I asked those who were the first in their family to become a lawyer, first to attend a college in the U.S., or the first to attend a second level of higher education to stand to be recognized, I saw the room rise.
"This program offered opportunity to shape ourselves and society, regardless of where you've come from."
The program, which completed its third year, was established by Law Center Dean Leonard M. Baynes and Program Manager Kristen Guiseppi. The eight-week summer course is designed to increase diversity among law school applicants and to provide students from underrepresented backgrounds an opportunity to consider law school seriously. The 2017 class marked the highest attendance in the program's brief history.
"It is quite fitting that trailblazing was the theme for this year's ceremony," Guiseppi said. "In many ways, these students have shown themselves to be trendsetters, and have demonstrated the drive and grit to take on the role of being leaders and future lawyers. These students are going to make their mark on the world, and it was an absolute pleasure being part of their genesis this summer. I anticipate only great things from each and every one of them."
The program divides students into two tracks – Scholar I and Scholar II.
Nineteen students participated in the program's Scholar I track, which is designed for students in their first two years of college. The curriculum consists of three weeks of introductory law school classes taught by UHLC faculty, two weeks of LSAT preparation, and three weeks of internships.
"Prior to the start of our internship period, we were prepped to be stellar young professionals through professional development workshops hosted by Kristi Johnson a communication consultant and coach, and Kourtney James Perry, associate director of the Career Development Office," said Elena Villarreal, a student at Texas A&M University.
"We were supported throughout our internship placement by an online session with Tiffany Tucker, assistant dean for Career Development, who generously volunteered her time with the pipeline students."
Twenty-seven students took part in the Scholar II track, designed for students in their third or fourth year of college who are preparing to apply to law school. The Scholar II track focuses on building a strong law school application. The curriculum consists of eight weeks of LSAT preparation, resume and personal statement workshops, and follow-up one-on-one sessions. It is recommended that students participate in both tracks to maximize their potential in the program.
"As a Scholar II student, we participated in a comprehensive LSAT focused curriculum," said Divine Collins, a student at Spelman. "We developed a strong foundation of LSAT basics during the first few weeks, and we built upon them during the remainder of the program. Each student was assigned mentors – current law school students and attorneys – who were able to advise us and provide important information about law school experiences. This is one of the many support systems that will remain in place for us when we return to our homes and colleges.
Participants came from universities around the country, with two previous Scholar I students returning to bolster their law school applications in the Scholar II track.
The program's graduates came from the following schools: Agnes Scott College, Dillard University, Houston Baptist University, Jackson State University, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Lycoming College, Spelman College, SUNY University at Buffalo, Texas A&M International University, Texas A&M University, Texas Southern University, Texas State University, the University of Houston, the University of Houston-Downtown, and the University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley.
Closing remarks were delivered by Baynes and Alaina King Benford, a partner at the Houston office of the Norton Rose Fulbright law firm. The ceremony was also attended by Paula Mendoza, a member of the University of Houston System Board of Regents, Dr. Elwyn C. Lee, Vice President for Community Relations and Institutional Access, as well as members of the local legal community. The ceremony was generously supported by Norton Rose Fulbright.
In addition to Baynes and Associate Dean Greg Vetter, students received teaching instruction from the following faculty and administrative staff:
Janet Beck, Emily Berman, Johnny Buckles, Darren Bush Katherine Brem, David Dow, Meredith J. Duncan, Barbara Evans, Dave Fagundes, Amy Hawk, Jim Hawkins, Whitney Heard, David Kwok, Ellen Marrus, Douglas Moll, Sarah Morath, Laura Oren, Robert Ragazzo, Lauren Simpson, Ronald Turner, Bret Wells, and Brad Wyly. Judge Belinda Hill, an UHLC adjunct professor, and Judge Josefina Rendon, a 1976 Law Center alumna, also provided instruction.
The application period for next year's UHLC Pre-Law Pipeline Program opens on Nov. 1, 2017. For more details, please visit http://www.law.uh.edu/pipeline/application.asp.