Blanca Hernandez ’15 Attends Prestigious DiscoverLaw.org Prelaw (PLUS) Program
One moment changed Saint Peter’s College student Blanca Hernandez’s ’15 life forever.
Her mentor and teacher, Alexander Mirescu, Ph.D., instructor of political science at the College, informed and encouraged Hernandez to apply to Suffolk University Law School’s LSAC DiscoverLaw.org Prelaw Undergraduate Scholars (PLUS) Program in Boston, Mass., an intensive four-week summer curriculum designed to help undergraduate students become familiar with the practice of law and the steps necessary to becoming a successful law student. Hernandez had her doubts about applying to the program, however. In fact, she had already planned out her professional path in life – one which did not include law school.
“When I came to Saint Peter’s, I wanted to major in criminal justice, become a police officer and get into the law enforcement field,” she said.
A few days before the application was due, Hernandez decided to apply to the program. She completed the application, which included submitting a college transcript, resume, two letters of recommendation, writing sample and personal essay. After being selected as a potential candidate from her application, Hernandez participated in a Skype interview with the program’s committee members. Nationwide, 300 undergraduates applied to the program and only 20 were accepted. Not only was Hernandez one of the chosen, she was also the only student from New Jersey to gain acceptance into the DiscoverLaw.org Prelaw (PLUS) Program. It is an event that has since altered her career choice, and inevitably her future.
“I decided to apply because the things Dr. Mirescu does in class caught my attention more than just criminal justice,” Hernandez said. “So I wanted to see how law school was. I applied, was accepted and I want to go to law school now.”
According to the DiscoverLaw.org Prelaw (PLUS) Program website, the program offers a nationally recognized experiential legal education curriculum that provides participating students with both the substantive knowledge they need to be successful law school applicants and students, as well as the critical thinking and academic skills that will serve as the foundation of their legal education.
“Entering such a competitive program – there were nearly 300 applicants for 20 paid positions – is not a game changer, it’s a life changer,” said Dr. Mirescu.
From June 3 to June 30, Hernandez participated in a simulation of a law student’s experience at school. She lived in a dorm on the Suffolk University campus, attended classes daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and even had homework, as well as exams. Hernandez received a pre-planned class schedule, and was introduced to real-life law courses such as Introduction to the Legal System, Legal Writing, Critical Reading and Legal Research. According to Hernandez, the classes involved a lot of reading, writing and studying.
“After the first two days of class, I got a handle on it and I managed through,” she said.
In addition to the scheduled courses, students also participated in panel discussions, enjoyed networking lunches with lawyers and other officials involved in the legal system, and were taken on field trips to law firms and courthouses. During a special event, Hernandez and her peers attended a convention that featured a speech by Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court Roderick L. Ireland, and the group even took a photo with the first African-American chief justice of the Massachusetts high court.
After completing the DiscoverLaw.org Prelaw (PLUS) Program, Hernandez said she has returned to the College with newfound time management, writing and studying skills. She has also changed her career path and even wants to attend Harvard Law School after graduating from Saint Peter’s.
“Throughout the whole program, I realized [what] I could accomplish,” Hernandez said. “The fact that out of [all of the] applicants, I got accepted to a program like that made me realize I could achieve much more.”
Dr. Mirescu agrees with Hernandez’s outlook, saying, “When I met Blanca upon her return, this was not the Blanca I had in PO-100. She returned as much more professionalized, presentable and sophisticated law student. Moreover, daily or even hourly exposure to top legal minds, judges, legal practitioners, representatives from federal and state government and the NGO community, as well as Suffolk University Law students opened her eyes to a world and life beyond Saint Peter’s. This program undoubtedly changed the trajectory of Blanca’s academic and professional career.”
For her professional goals, Hernandez plans to become involved in the legal system to work against human trafficking and drug smuggling – both internationally and in the U.S. She became interested in these issues during her freshman year at Saint Peter’s after attending a Criminal Justice Department trip overseas to Italy and Greece.
“I saw a young girl in Athens, Greece, and you could tell she was drugged and that she didn’t want to be there by her posture, her body language and the way she was getting treated,” Hernandez recalled. “I was just like, ‘There’s cops passing by and they’re not doing anything about it.’ That hurt me. So I decided to get involved with that.”
Undoubtedly, Hernandez will realize her dreams not only through her own resolve, but also with an abundant amount of support from the College.
“Our department was very proud of her perseverance and her desire to work with us to improve her profile,” said Dr. Mirescu. “While she did well at a prestigious program, she and I agreed that our collective efforts are not done, not by a long shot. I and the political science department are committed to Blanca for the long-haul, so this is for sure only one of a string of successes for her.”