Program Participant Luis Aleman's Speech at the Class of 2019 Graduation
Luis A. Aleman
Luis Alberto Aleman received his B.S. in Political Science from the University of Central Florida in May 2015 and his J.D. from Stetson University College of Law in May 2019. He has experience in personal injury litigation and is fluent in Spanish. He participated in the pilot program and benefited tremendously from mentorship, leadership training, networking, and "coming out of his comfort zone." Mr. Aleman moved back to South Florida to be closer to his parents. He currently works at a law firm and is studying for the Florida Bar Exam.
Although I don't have a formal presentation, I do want to tell you about the DAP program and what it means to me personally. When I applied for DAP, I was interested in accessing the curriculum, modules, speakers, and mentors that it offered.
I approached the DAP program as an opportunity for an introverted person, such as myself, to push out of my comfort zone. I knew that it would allow me to do more in law school than just hoping that I never got cold-called in class. DAP gave me what I was seeking for: opportunities to grow in a setting with people I could relate to.
During the DAP tryout process, I remember I was so nervous before the group interview. Until the very last moment, I was debating with myself on whether I should go or not go into the interview. I remember saying to myself, “Why does it matter if I go or not? It’s not for a job or a huge sum of money. Blow it off and save yourself the stress." However, I knew, and I felt it in my stomach that if I didn’t go, I would feel like I failed.
When I went to do the presentation portion of the interview, I didn’t have anything prepared, so I winged it. From my perspective, I thought my presentation was terrible. However, in the end, I was comfortable with the way things had turned out because I did not stay home worrying or thinking about "what-if." Looking back, I'm glad that I did that presentation, it was the first opportunity that DAP gave me, and I am thrilled that I took it.
A week later, I was delighted to receive an email inviting me to participate in the Diversity Access Pipeline Pilot Program. Due to the lack of funding, I wasn’t able to get a scholarship to go towards Bar Prep Materials; however, that is not what I wanted. I knew that this program could offer me valuable opportunities and experiences that money could not buy. These experiences included obtaining a mentor who I could relate to and trust. It also included hearing speakers who were insightful, accomplished, and who faced or have faced both the same challenges that I have experienced thus far and the ones that I have yet to see.
I grew up in South Florida as the only child to Guatemalan immigrants. My mom had her associate's degree, and my father didn’t finish middle school. Growing up, my experience in school was quite different. Spanish was my first language, and while in school, people had a difficult time saying my name correctly. For a long time, I did not understand why some people would look at me funny or eat the same food that I ate, such as tortillas and black beans. Although I grew up feeling different, I knew that I felt the most comfortable around those who were not the majority. The challenges that I experienced growing up, a lot of people will never understand, no matter how hard they try to or how genuine they are. I think that to understand an individual's struggles or challenges, you have to struggle, and I loved the fact that the DAP Program has given me comfort to know that I was around others who knew struggle just as I knew it.
Being in the DAP program gave me purpose, and I enjoyed every module I participated in. I never left a module in Tampa, thinking to myself, “Wow, I really wasted my time tonight! ” Each module was a new and unique opportunity for me to grow; we touched on leadership, mental wellness, federal clerkships, mentorship, community service, and more. After each module would end, instead of leaving Tampa tired, I felt energized, and I felt alive. Every time I drove home, I had my windows down, music up, cruising, filled with satisfaction.
I will miss participating in the DAP program, and I want to thank Joseline and all those who helped put the program together. Thank you to the module speakers and presenters who dedicated their time to the DAP program.
However, I do have one last thing to say. I almost didn’t make it out here today, not because of the same nerves that I felt during my interview presentation, but because today is a hard day for me. My close friend Miguel passed away a year ago today in Orlando. As some of you may know, I have a huge interest in immigration law, and my friend Miguel was a Dreamer. He had received DACA status many years ago and wanted nothing more than to stay in this country. He had been here for over 15 years. He supported his mom and his little sister. He worked two jobs. I got into this field to help people like him, and even though ultimately he wasn’t able to follow his dreams, I would like to speak to this room and the universe to say that I will follow my dreams for the both of us. (Miguel and myself).
Thank you, Luis A. Aleman
The content in this article is not the exact original version and has been edited for publication purposes. To watch Mr. Aleman's delivery of the original version of his speech, check out our YouTube page or click here.
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