Featured Lawtina Story: Genesis Sanchez

Meet Genesis Sanchez. She is graduating from Columbia Law School, and is such an incredible, hard-working, individual. Read her story below: 

"In the Dominican Republic, to keep the bad guys out, we had to lock ourselves in. We were prisoners in our own homes. And even then, we were never really safe. With high levels of poverty came rampant acts of violence. Eight days after my fifth birthday, my father was shot and killed at a gas station. At the funeral, I overheard my brother say, “I wish I had a ladder. I would throw it up to the sky so my father could climb down.” My family was too afraid of retaliation to prosecute. That is when I experienced lawlessness, the first of many injustices. That is when I decided to become a lawyer. I knew a ladder would not bring my father back, but I believed law promised the possibility of peace.

Staying true to that five-year-old girl’s goals, this May I will be graduating from Columbia Law School with a juris doctor.

It has been an uphill climb to get here. In 2005, like so many before us, my mother and I moved here in search of the American Dream. We shared a two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment with eight other people. We did not speak English. Then, when I was 10, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. As her only child, and her my only parent, we were afraid. Seeing my mother shave her head, endure chemotherapy, and eventually get a mastectomy was hard. But she survived, and I did, too.

When I started school, I realized that I could not understand a thing. I wanted to learn but – like the many other English language learners – lacked critically necessary resources. Everything around me became the classroom, and I was the student determined to learn. Eventually, I mastered the language. But my SAT score, the highest in my school, was just average. I faced major rejection in the college admissions process partly because as a recent immigrant, I juggled two to three jobs at a time from the time I was a freshman in high school all the way through college and was unable to participate in extensive extracurricular activities. This is how inequality works.

Still, I rose. I attended Rhode Island College where I graduated with a 3.79 GPA with a triple major in Political Science, Justice Studies, and Public Administration and a minor in sociology while simultaneously working at a law firm as a legal assistant and at the movie theater as a staff supervisor.

When it was time to apply to law school, I decided to cast a wide net. I knew I wanted to be a lawyer and was certain I would make that happen regardless of which institution admitted me. Out of the 13 schools I applied to, Columbia Law School was the one where I felt most welcomed.    

While at Columbia, I met some of my greatest friends. I took courses that interested me. I became the Vice President of the Latinx Law Student Association, a staffer in the Human Rights Law Review Journal, and joined various other organizations like the Black Law Student Association and First Generation Professionals. I got to study abroad and travel to places I could never dream of, places my mother hadn’t even heard of. Most importantly, I got to be part of the Immigrant’s Rights Clinic where I worked with individuals and families, both in the U.S. and in Mexico, to petition for life-saving asylum. 

I am telling you about my journey not to invoke sympathy, but to show you that it is possible.  Growing up in America, I was taught that as an immigrant, poor, woman of color who didn’t speak English and was raised by a single mother, my dreams were out of reach but here I am."