Thanks to a grant from the Texas Bar Foundation, UT Arlington’s Pre-Law Center is making an impact in the community.
This past spring, 150 students from six different Arlington high schools visited with Pre-Law Center faculty and students at UT Arlington. Volunteers shared with Arlington ISD students about the preparation necessary to apply for law school, as well as the experience gained through volunteering at legal aid clinics and learning about the different types of law practiced.
“We were overwhelmed with how many students came,” said Elisabeth Cawthon, associate professor of history and interim director of the Pre-Law Center. “We expected 50, but got three times as much. Students were serious about it and AISD seemed to really like the program.”
The program started when a teacher from Carter Junior High inquired about UTA’s Pre-Law Center and said she had students interested in immigration law. Several UTA students went over and talked to those students.
“Our students spent quite a long time acting as mentors to the junior high,” Cawthon said.
Cawthon explained the program was successful because UTA students have a heart for public service. They inspired and encouraged Arlington ISD students, because many of them, similarly, are first generation students in their families, she said.
“It is really helpful for them to share that similarity,” Cawthon said. “There is no substitute for that. If they see a lawyer, they cannot relate with that; they think they can never do that. But if they have as student who is one step ahead of them, who walked the same path, they can relate and it gives people hope.”
AISD students visited the UTA campus on three different dates in April. Each visit was planned with activities: a sample pre-law class with Assistant Professor Oliver Bateman (History); a talk from Megan Hansen, admissions director at Michigan State Law School; and a presentation from Brittany Dunn, a lawyer in the Dallas District Attorney’s office.
Cawthon said Hansen talked to the students about applying to law school and introduced the group to a webinar at Michigan State Law School. In the webinar, students reviewed the various career paths available with a law degree.
The Pre-Law Center intends to host several more events for Arlington ISD students next year, Cawthon said.
(Story by Elissa Ammon, COLA Communications)