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How a Scholarship Changed One CWSL Student’s Life

Hugo Polanco

Growing up in an immigrant family was not easy for Hugo Polanco.

The second-year California Western student came to the U.S. from El Salvador as a child. Life for him and his family was anything but easy. But even at a young age, Polanco was learning the value of community service when one Christmas he and his family received gifts and food from a local charitable organization.

“That memory left a large impression in my mind,” recalls Polanco. “As I grew up, I knew that I wanted to give back in some way for the generosity that that organization showed my family.”

Polanco never forgot that act of kindness and, as a college student, he went back to his high school to tutor students who needed help with English, history, and geometry. He joined the pre-law chapter of Phi Alpha Delta, a national professional fraternity of lawyers, judges, and students and served as the Secretary and later as President of the student chapter.

Before coming to California Western, Polanco worked as a housing counselor for a non-profit, guiding and educating homeowners who were facing foreclosure.

“Through that job,” says Polanco, “I learned that the best way to be an advocate for my clients is to treat them with dignity and compassion because it’s the right thing to do.”

As a person coming from a low-income family, becoming a lawyer felt like an unattainable dream for Polanco. However, he was determined to go to law school and started to explore the kind of scholarships that might be available. At California Western, he found the whole process very easy.

“The first step for students is they need to be aware that scholarships exist,” says Polanco. “The application process at California Western is simple, and I received updates at every step, which was very helpful. The law school admissions office is very responsive.”

Polanco describes coming to California Western as a blessing but also one of the most difficult challenges he has ever undertaken however the most rewarding too.

“Although classes are difficult, and at times it feels like there are not enough hours in the day to get everything done, the passion that my professors have for teaching keeps me motivated,” says Polanco.

Looking forward, because of his experience as a housing counselor, Polanco wants to explore real estate or property law. He also has an interest in employment law after taking an employment law course at Cal Western. He is keen to do externships in both fields if he can.

While at Cal Western, Polanco has found ways to serve the campus community. He is Secretary for the La Raza Law Student Association, Vice President of Diversity for the student chapter of the American Constitution Society, and participates in two mentorship programs.

“My goal is to support, inspire, and be a cheerleader for my mentees,” he says. “I want them to know that if I can be a successful law student, they can too.”

Polanco feels California Western has invested in him, not just with the scholarship but with the supportive community and commitment of the faculty, staff, and fellow students.

“Because of that investment, I face the future with a sense of responsibility that wherever my career takes me, I will keep ties with the school and give back in one way or another,” says Polanco. “It is because of California Western that I know that I can be a successful lawyer one day.”