Even before graduating from California State University, Dominguez Hills, junior Gabriel Ybarra is starting his academic law career. He was recently accepted to the Law Fellows Program through the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law Academic Outreach Resource Center for the spring 2012 term, and in January he began attending monthly day-long “Saturday Academy” workshops affiliated with the program.
The preparatory academy provides students a glimpse into to the fellows program, a chance to meet their prospective mentors and other key people, and to tour UCLA School of Law and the UCLA campus.
At one of the workshops, Ybarra said he, along with about 100 other students from the CSU and UC systems, and a few as far away as the East Coast, met with a panel of UCLA Law Fellows Program alumni who now serve in various roles at Los Angeles area courts.
Describing the session, Ybarra said, “it was kind of like a speed-dating thing—alternating, asking questions of each panelist for one or two minutes…what the bar exam is like, studying for the LSAT [Law School Admissions Test], scholarship opportunities, and what the market is like for people who graduate from UCLA with certain GPAs.”
While the program is designed to demystify the law school experience for undergraduate and graduate students, Ybarra is no stranger to the concept of justice and law. He grew up in a household where it was a part of his daily experiences. Ybarra recalls watching television as a young boy, with his father, a long-time federal agent, who would cheer for TV personalities on shows such as “Judge Judy” and “Peoples Court.”
Ybarra, a Wilmington native, is sensitive to the effects of violence and the plight of crime victims. He sees becoming a lawyer as a way he can give back to his community.
“I remember a specific event [in the news], where a woman’s child was killed and [the authorities] couldn’t find the perpetrators. She was in a state of desperation. I thought, what if something like that happened to me or someone in my family?” Ybarra said. “What could I do to help someone else who could potentially be in that scenario?”
With cultural, historical and political development as the emphasis of his Chicano/a studies major, Ybarra believes he will have the perspective to effectively impact his community. In the meantime, he’s making an impact at CSU Dominguez. He is a member of the Chicano/a Latino studies graduation committee and the Eighth Annual Dolores Huerta Graduation Celebration planning committee. Along with fellow student and co-editor Nelly Gonzalez, he is helping to revive the Chicano/a studies online newsletter Adelante. For several semesters now, he has earned a spot on the College of Arts and Humanities Dean’s List.
Ybarra is considering deferring law school for a year after completing his undergraduate degree, but not because he wants to recover from his busy life as an undergraduate. He will be using that time to prepare for LSAT, which he considers to be a challenging hurdle into law school. The UCLA Law Fellows program offers LSAT preparation workshops, including administering mock exams, which is one of the main reasons Ybarra pursued the program.
Of the program, Ybarra said, “It gives potential law school candidates insight to what the experience of being a law student is like—an introduction to the learning process in a classroom, learning to read precedents, court cases, dockets, arguing cases, and things of that nature.”
Just as Ybarra will have an assigned mentor while at UCLA, he has had guidance while at CSU Dominguez Hills. During a counseling session, José R. López Morín, acting chair and associate professor of Chicano/a studies, suggested the UCLA Law Fellows Program as an opportunity for Ybarra to further prepare for a career in law.
“I feel confident that I have the due preparation from [CSU Dominguez Hills] that I need to tackle law school,” said Ybarra, who maintains a 3.96 GPA. “I’m nervous about taking the bar exam now, because I’m still an undergraduate. But once I’m in law school, I won’t be nervous about it, because once I’m prepared, I’ll know what I’m doing.”