Featured Lawtina: Crismelly Morales

My name is Crismelly Morales. My life changed forever on December 9, 2009. On that date, I boarded a JetBlue plane in the Dominican Republic. I had never been on a plane before. At 20 years old, I was traveling alone. This was not a vacation. I was willingly leaving the country where I was born and raised. My emotions were jumbled. Anxiety, excitement, doubt, and hope swept over me. During that three-hour flight, I thought about how I was going to miss my language, my mother’s homemade sancocho, visiting my maternal grandmother who lived across the street, seeing my friends every day, the beautiful beaches and so much more. I was raised by a single mom, who worked tirelessly to make sure that I had shelter, food, and an education. More importantly, my “mami” made sure I always had her love and care. She taught me that I could accomplish any goal I set my mind to if I worked hard. She gave me strength to board that plane and to start a new journey.


Peering out the plane window, looking at the vast sky and endless clouds I thought about the scary path I was on. Life as I knew it was over. I would have to put my goal of becoming an attorney on hold until I could become settled in my new country. I was in my third year of law school in the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo when I received word that the petition filed by my paternal grandmother allowing me to move, had been granted. Becoming a lawyer has been my dream for as long as I can remember. It was difficult knowing my dream would have to wait.


When the plane touched down at the John F. Kennedy Airport, I realized I really was in the United States of America; a country where so many people dream about living or visiting one day. As I stepped outside to wait for my aunt to pick me up, I was greeted by chilly 28-degree weather and my first snowfall. The blast of cold air reminded me that now I was in a new country where I had to quickly become independent. I signed up for English classes to reinforce the knowledge I had acquired in private classes in the Dominican Republic. To become more fluent in English, I took a job as a shoe sales associate so I would have constant contact with customers. I worked there for two years; becoming an Assistant Manager.


I never lost sight of my goal to become an attorney even though there were setbacks and hardships. I had to start my college education over because the credits from the Dominican university did not transfer. I received an Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies after attending Rockland Community College. I went on to attend SUNY Purchase College for two more years, graduating with an BA in Legal Studies. Today, I graduate from New York Law School, obtaining the degree for which I’ve been working tirelessly for over 10 years.  For the past 9 years, while attending college and law school, I’ve worked as an Immigration Paralegal. My dream is to become an immigration lawyer upon admission to the bar.


Besides fulfilling my dream of graduating from law school, I’ve also accomplished other precious goals, such as becoming a U.S. Citizen, and petitioning for my parents to come to live to the United States. In hindsight, the plane ride was the easiest part of the journey. Graduating from law school has been one of the most gratifying experiences in my life. Knowing that I am one step closer to my goal of becoming an attorney, makes me believe that this long journey will be all worth it.