Julie Mitchell’s Remarks at WLALA’s Holiday Reception
Thank you all for inviting me to participate in this event. In preparation for tonight, I was trying to remember what my life looked like 7 years ago when I got the scholarship. Not only was my life very different, the world also felt like a different place. I was working as a legal assistant at a non-profit organization, the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN). Every day I would see lots of people face-to-face and less than 6 feet apart. After work, I would hop on my bike and race to make it to evening class at 6:00pm where I would sit in a live classroom with 45 other students. It is somewhat hard to imagine now. It was this very crazy time in my life, but it was also this very exciting time. I was learning so much every day and although life was hectic, all the late nights in the library seemed worth it because every day at my job I was reminded of why I wanted to become an immigration attorney.
The scholarship money was incredibly helpful because I felt expenses continually piling up, and like many law schools students, I was struggling to figure out how to make it all work. In addition to the money, (which 7 years later I am still grateful for!), the scholarship also had an important non-economic impact that I think I only realize now in hindsight. That impact was probably even more important than the money…although Julie from 7 years ago might disagree with me.
For me, receiving the scholarship built my confidence. Here was this group of women that had made it. They were where I was working so hard to be, and they believed in me enough in invest in me. That meant something 7 years ago and it still means something to me today. I think it helped to give me the drive to keep going, and to be innovative and creative in my approach to providing services.
After graduation, I went on to start a program to provide free immigration legal services to students at community colleges and state universities. The program has grown immensely, and now I manage two teams, covering 16 campuses. I absolutely love my job and I do not think I would have gotten where I am today if it was not for people believing in my and investing in my along the way.
To me, the scholarship is so important because not only does it help people with money at a time in their life when they probably really need help, it is important because it has the potential to build confidence and leadership.
Now that I am at a place in life where I can help more, I plan to pay it forward and donate to the charitable fund and I encourage you to do the same. If you cannot give, consider other ways to invest in people, whether through being a mentor or some other creative way to show the next generation that you believe in them.