Pathways to Law School Program is Yielding Success Stories

Until four years ago, Austin Turner never harbored notions of becoming a lawyer.

Neither of his parents had finished college, so it seemed natural that upon graduating from his Northern California high school in 2008 that Turner jump into the real world. After a stint in the Navy, he became a cell phone salesman. Eventually, he eased back into formal studies by taking an occasional community college class, figuring it would help reveal a career direction.

Now, Turner is in his first year at the University of California, Davis law school, with hopes of a career in water law — the ownership, control and use of water under natural resources law.

What happened that propelled him from academic meandering into law school?

Turner is among an initial crop of law students whose participation in a groundbreaking initiative at California’s two-year colleges led them through bachelor’s degree-granting institutions and into law studies. Turner, whose bachelor’s is in political science, is the first participant of “Community Colleges Pathway to Law School” to enroll at UC Davis law school.

Launched in 2014, the initiative aims to diversify the legal profession by targeting members of historically underrepresented populations, which make up sizeable segments of community college enrollment. Back at Solano Community College, Turner qualified for “Pathway” as a first-generation college-goer and former member of the military.

“It’s really energizing to see Austin here and to know that all our outreach and preparations are starting to come together,” says Kristen Mercado, UC Davis’ assistant dean of admissions and financial aid. “We want to see more nontraditional students like Austin, too, in each entering class.”

Kristen Mercado
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