SAC Provides Blueprint for Other Colleges’ Pathway to Law School Programs Programs

August 14, 2018

Breanna Rodriguez – the first in her family to attend college – is well on her chosen trajectory to law school, thanks to Santa Ana College’s Pathway to Law School Program.

Rodriguez graduated from Santa Ana College (SAC) in May with an AA in psychology and will attend UC Irvine in the fall to pursue her bachelor’s degree. She plans to study immigration law upon entering law school.

“I am the first in my family to attend college, so becoming involved in the programs on campus such as the Pathway to Law School Program really helped guide me in the right direction,” Rodriguez says. “The program has helped me with focusing on my studies and planning for my future by allowing me to take classes where I am exposed to learning more about law.”

She also served a required internship, working with the Legal Aid Society of Orange County to get the hands-on experience she needs. In addition, Rodriguez says, caring professors like Kristen Robinson, SAC associate professor of legal studies and coordinator of the Pathway to Law School program, a lawyer herself, have provided her with the right tools for her success.

The Pathway to Law School program is part of a joint initiative between the California Community Colleges and the State Bar of California that provides students at 24 community colleges a smoother pathway to eight of California’s top law schools. Santa Ana College was the first community college in Orange County included in the program.

The Community Colleges Pathway to Law School initiative is an unprecedented effort within public higher education to enhance opportunities and advancement in the legal profession for diverse populations, particularly those who have been underrepresented.

In addition, SAC has signed articulation agreements with Santa Ana and Godinez high schools, providing high school students a pipeline into the college’s Pathway to Law School program. Santa Ana High School students last year could take a law class taught by Robinson for high school and college credit on their home campus. Students must successfully complete the course with a B or better to receive college credit.

Robinson became the first person to develop a Pathway to Law School certificated program at a California community college, says Madeline Grant, SAC’s dean of business.

“Kristen saw the opportunity and thanks to her Santa Ana College was the first in the consortia to develop the transcripted certificate program,” Grant says. “It is now a model curriculum for community colleges throughout the state.”

Robinson says the Orange County legal community is enthusiastic about the Pathway to Law School program. “We have received an amazing response,” she notes. “In the past week alone, we’ve connected with the Hispanic Bar Association. The nice thing about SAC is that we have the ability to change a student’s life by providing them with help to get them on their path, giving them the services, classes, experience, and counseling they need.”

More than 60 students enrolled in the program for 2016-2017, and the same is anticipated for the current year, Robinson says. Three students earned the certificate last year, and 10 or more students are on track to earn the certificate this year.

The pathway program has “created a wonderful dynamic for our campus as a whole,” Grant notes. “As we engage in the initiative, which consists of many general education and humanities courses, it has created a wonderful opportunity for dialogue among faculty.

“When you connect faculty and students with industry – it’s a package with a bow on it as students earn both their AA degree and the Pathway to Law School certificate.”