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Aspiring public defender sees passion come together at McGeorge

May 17, 2019

Sydnie Reyes '19As Sydnie Reyes '14, '19 prepares to graduate May 2019, she reflects on how the past three years at McGeorge School of Law have been an integral part of her life. While pursuing an undergraduate degree in psychology with a minor in pre-law on Pacific’s Stockton Campus, Reyes was drawn to McGeorge’s strong focus on public policy, legal program and financial aid support. These benefits, plus her desire to make a difference in people’s lives, ultimately contributed to her decision to pursue a law degree at McGeorge.

It didn’t take long for Reyes to become actively involved on the Sacramento Campus and in surrounding communities.

After seeing a need for increased diversity and inclusiveness on campus, she led a successful effort to create the Center for Inclusion and Diversity (CID). She advocated for a student-led space for trainings, conversations, and even just quiet study for minority and first-generation students. Reyes focused on how a student-led “safe space” could help retain diverse law students, a national struggle among law schools and firms. In the first year of CID, she dedicated countless hours, which she admits was a bit challenging. But with her persistence and dedication, CID has become a central place for students to feel a sense of belonging and receive academic, social and emotional support.

“All those times spent putting up posters and taking them down after the event was worth it,” Reyes said. “CID really made a difference. We saw an improvement in the quality of programming across the index.”

Students were able to come together because of the effort to celebrate their cultures and engage in critical discussions to improve the community.

In between studying and attending classes, she found time to serve as president of the Latino Law Students Association, vice president of the Student Bar Association and a mentor to first-year law students as a Torts Fellow. She has volunteered for numerous projects, such as the creation of bar scholarships for students who must work while studying for the bar exam and assistance to low-income families living in rural areas with legal needs.

Reyes understands the importance of obtaining work experience, so she tapped into opportunities in the United States and abroad to gain broader experience.

She worked as a certified law clerk with the Federal Defender of Eastern District of California, a certified legal intern with the Sacramento County Public Defender’s Office, and an intern for a supreme court in Guatemala. It’s no wonder that the McGeorge community nominated her for the 2019 National Jurist Law Student of the Year award.

While Reyes prepares for the next chapter in her life, she gets sentimental about leaving the McGeorge community.

“I’ll probably be emotional in my cap and gown moment,” Reyes confessed. “Life is always a work in progress. But for me especially, I was able to find those moments of integration during this last year. Moments when I can see my passion come together.”

As the first in her family to receive a professional degree, Reyes looks forward to sharing the triumph and celebrating this victory with her family.

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