By Drew Walleck

Life for me as an openly-gay student in grade school meant being harassed and bullied.

I wish I could tell you the behavior I endured only came from other students. But that would be untrue.

“This is just going to happen,” a school administrator told me when I pleaded for help. “You have to expect it.”

Those words drove me to finish high school, pursue a bachelor’s degree in political science, and enroll at the University of La Verne College of Law.

I yearned for a path of empowerment. As someone who had been kicked down my entire life, I wanted the tools to stay on my feet and defend others who had been treated as I was.

The only thing that remained unclear was my career focus.

All of that became clear this summer after I landed an internship at the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

This organization helps more LGBT people than any other place in the world. About 42,000 clients visit the center every year for assistance with health and social services, violence prevention, education, and other needs.

I helped LGBT immigrants with forms, employment applications, and documents to seek asylum. Many had been treated poorly by other attorneys before making their way to the center. Just listening went a long way for many people I encountered.

After the intake process, I sometimes sat in with the center’s attorneys to provide additional support for these clients. All of the center’s interns would gather to reflect on our experiences before leaving for the day.

In the end, I gained much more than law experience. I found a career path.

I learned that my passion lies in being an advocate for people who are marginalized – people who have been told to “just expect it.”

My dream is to obtain my degree and pass the bar exam so I work as an attorney for an organization such as the American Civil Liberties Union. I hope to spend next summer working as an intern for the ACLU on LGBT and immigration issues.

I credit the University of La Verne College of Law and the university’s emphasis on applying classroom theory to the real world to my transformation. The university has taught me to become a better person ethically, morally, and legally.

Professor Kevin Marshall stood by me despite my early struggles in law school. He not only accepted me, but championed my dreams of becoming an attorney.

As I enter my second year of law school, I feel a stronger sense of purpose in every class, every meeting with professors, and every event on and off campus related to law. I look forward to going out into the world to put all of this into practice.

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