Berkeley Law Opportunity Scholarship

The Berkeley Law Opportunity Scholarship (BLOS) is a 3 year, full tuition scholarship for first generation college graduates. In order to apply, you must:

  • Identify as a first generation college graduate
  • Submit a complete admissions application by December 15, 2020
  • Have taken the LSAT no later than November 2020
  • Write a 1-2 page BLOS essay with your application materials

As a premier public law school, meaningful access to a high-quality legal education is central to our core mission and values. We believe that we have a responsibility to promote access for students who are the first in their families to graduate from college and to pursue a professional degree. A first generation college student is someone whose parents did not earn a college degree or the equivalent. The Berkeley Law Opportunity Scholarship is a symbol of our commitment to both excellence and access. 

Furthermore, we believe that first generation individuals bring an important perspective, shaped by their personal experiences, to any setting—from the classroom to the board room. We also recognize these individuals have the potential to become law students who have a high degree of leadership potential and a strong personal commitment to making a positive impact on society. The Berkeley Law Opportunity Scholarship provides students with an outstanding, affordable educational opportunity.

Scholarship & Programming

Financial Support

The Berkeley Law Opportunity Scholarship provides recipients with funding to cover tuition and fees (including Student Health Insurance, materials fees, etc.) for three years (six semesters) of study at Berkeley Law. This is equivalent to more than $150,000 in guaranteed non-loan aid. The BLOS does not provide a stipend to cover books, computing needs, or living expenses, relocation, etc. 

“The BLOS award has served as an invaluable gift and resource to me in law school. I have always worked multiple jobs in high school and college to pay for tuition and living expenses, which made it very difficult for me to dedicate time and energy to my classes. For the first time in my life, I can solely focus on my academics and law school endeavors.”

-Xiaolin Chen ’21

Programmatic Support

We realize that there can be unique challenges when you are the first person in your family to receive a college degree and go on to attend law school. Among these are the financial pressures and demands that often distract from an academic experience. We hope this award will allay those concerns. We also recognize that at times a lack of family or other social support may complicate your introduction into the legal profession. We hope to address these barriers in meaningful ways as well.

Berkeley Law is community‐oriented. Recipients of the BLOS will have the option to participate in the First Generation Professionals (FGP) student organization. FGP was founded and is run by students with the support of faculty sponsors. 

“The organization cuts across race and gender and is born from the common needs of law students from poor and working‐class backgrounds who are often the first members of their family to obtain higher education. The First Generation Professionals student group accords with the mission of Berkeley Law as a public law school committed to promoting social mobility.”

-Professor Bertrall Ross, FGP Faculty Sponsor

 Some of FGP’s activities include:

  • Organizing events designed to support students in the development of social capital, networks, and knowledge, to help ensure that these students have the same opportunities for success as everyone.
  • Offering programs such as dinners with other first generation professional alumni, and a first generation alumni‐student mentorship match coordinated by the Career Development Office.
  • Facilitating connections for FGP students here at the law school, including offering a first generation professional buddy system that matches 2Ls and 3Ls with 1Ls, and an annual dinner at a professors’ house in which students have the opportunity to spend time with the Dean and other members of the faculty. 
  • Academic and other support in the form of exam‐taking skills training sessions, career development forums for both careers in the public sector and the private sector, and more.

In addition, recipients of the BLOS will be guaranteed a spot in Berkeley Law’s Pre‐Orientation Program, hosted by faculty before the official start of classes to ease the transition into law school. (Non‐BLOS recipients are also eligible to participate in the Pre‐Orientation program if they submit a timely application.)

“In our first BLOS dinner, I was introduced to faculty and staff that quickly became trusted advisors and career mentors. Building this support was an important goal for me in law school.”

-Rosa Hernandez ’21

There are also many social and networking events specifically for BLOS recipients. Typically, they are welcomed to campus with a “Family Dinner” that introduces them to key staff in the Career Development Office, Financial Aid, Student Services, etc. In the past, the Dean of the law school also hosted the BLOS recipients for a dinner at his or her home, along with members of the faculty. We expect these and other traditions to continue.

Finally, all Berkeley Law students have access to our on‐site psychologists, Academic Skills Program (ASP), field placements and externships, clinics, journals, Student Initiated Legal Projects, Career Development Office programming, and more.

How to Apply

Candidates must be a first generation college student in order to be considered. We consider a college student to be first generation if neither parent earned a four-year college degree or the equivalent. Finalists will be chosen from all qualified applicants by a selection committee and will be invited for an in-person interview in March. Interviews are required.

The deadline to apply and submit all required materials for BLOS is December 15, 2020 and you may apply using the regular decision application or binding early decision application. Because BLOS applications are reviewed in January, the last LSAT that we will take into consideration for BLOS candidates is the November 2020 LSAT

You are required to submit a one to two page essay addressing the following prompt: How do you think being a first generation college student has shaped your perspective, and how will that perspective contribute to the Berkeley Law community? While this essay can include themes and points from your personal statement and/or diversity statement, it should be a unique essay that addresses your perspective as a first generation college graduate. 

What do we look for?

“The BLOS award not only removed financial barriers from my law school goals, but also gave me the validation I needed to know I belonged in the Berkeley Law space. I immediately connected with Berkeley Law staff and other students through the BLOS interview process, and felt supported and seen by staff throughout my 1L year, with built-in friends in my BLOS cohort. I was able to focus on public interest goals and involvements immediately in pursuit of my future career, feeling free from financial restraints to pursue my dreams and finally not having to make a decisions based on financial feasibility.”

-Maddison Pilgrim ’22

In selecting finalists, the BLOS selection committee will read through your application materials, including personal statement, resume, letters of recommendation, optional addenda, and the required BLOS essay. In general, our committee is looking at three broad categories in selecting finalists:

  • “Distance traveled” (in the non-literal sense). How far have you come, and what obstacles have you faced, on your journey toward law school?
  • “Potential contribution” – both to the Berkeley Law community (will you be a student leader? what activities or curricular areas are you interested in? etc.) and to the legal profession in general (what do you see yourself doing with your law degree? how and where will you have an impact?).
  • “Need” in the financial and mentoring sense. How will you benefit from the BLOS? There are no actual income or asset tests, but we’re looking to provide opportunities to those with very limited resources, financial and otherwise.

Retention and Renewability

BLOS awards are renewed automatically for up to three years (six semesters). There is no GPA or class standing requirement associated with scholarship renewability. The only requirements for retaining BLOS awards are that recipients make satisfactory academic progress and remain in good standing with the law school.

Meet the Scholars

Class of 2023

Juan Martin Cabrales

Hometown: San Diego, CA
Undergraduate: San Diego State University ’15

Juan received his bachelor’s degree from San Diego State University in 2015. As the proud son of Mexican immigrants and a first generation American, Juan is committed to providing low income communities access to quality legal representation. As an undergraduate student, Juan worked on several public health research studies focused on mitigating health disparities among Latinx communities. He has served as a case manager for unaccompanied minors, working towards the goal of reunifying families across the U.S. He then transitioned into immigration law, providing direct legal services for immigrants seeking a secure and stable life in the U.S. Juan most recently worked with the East Bay Community Law Center’s (EBCLC) Clean Slate Practice from 2018 -2020. He worked on growing and shaping EBCLC’s first “Crimmigration” program. The program provided indigent immigrants and Alameda county residents the opportunity to overcome barriers created by their criminal records and access to specialized representation that is often inaccessible for low-income individuals. In addition, Juan was a member of EBCLC’s Wellness and Union Negotiating Committee. In his spare time, Juan enjoys reading and exploring the great outdoors. He feels very grateful and excited to continue pursing public interest work.

Lucero Cordova Arellanes

Hometown: Santa Fe, NM
Undergraduate: University of Denver ’20

Lucero grew up in Santa Fe, NM and graduated from the University of Denver in 2020. Throughout her undergrad career, Lucero worked as a legal assistant for a small immigration firm and interned for Casa de Paz, a local nonprofit; whose services include providing shelter, food, and transportation to immigrants released from detention. Lucero is passionate about social justice and issues regarding immigration and equal representation. Her interests stem from her community and her knowledge of the gross inequalities that exist in communities of color. She hopes to pursue a career in public service and enhance her skills as a legal advocate.

Kendra Dawson

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Undergraduate: Loyola Marymount University ’19

Kendra Dawson was raised in Los Angeles, CA. She completed her undergraduate degree in Communications at Loyola Marymount University and then went on to complete a masters degree in Political Sociology at the London School of Economics & Political Science. In her free time she likes to read, meditate, and travel. She has a strong interest in family law and further exploring technology & IP law. She is looking forward to her journey at Berkeley Law.

Jessica Michelle Gomez

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Undergraduate: UCLA ’12

Jessica is the daughter of Salvadoran civil war refugees. She grew up in South Los Angeles. She attended UCLA where she engaged in student activism with the California Domestic Worker Coalition. Through coalition building and canvassing, Jessica advocated for domestic workers’ rights such as rest breaks and right to overtime. She is a member of the Human Rights Alliance for Child Refugees & Families, a grassroots collective that organizes and supports refugee families by providing material support during and post-detention. Most recently, as an organizer and paralegal for the Opportunity Under Law project, the impact litigation unit at Public Counsel, Jessica helped combat economic injustice through community engagement and policy reform. In this role, Jessica advocated for the fundamental rights of vulnerable communities, such as formerly incarcerated people, refugees and low-wage workers. Jessica will continue to dedicate herself towards elevating the needs and voices of directly impacted and neglected communities. Jessica aspires to become a criminal public defender.

Sasha Graham

Hometown: Richmond, CA
Undergraduate: UC Berkeley ’20

Sasha, a single mother, attended UC Berkeley, where she majored in Ethnic Studies. She has been a housing activist for the last 5 years, serving as the President on the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment State Board. During her time on the Board she helped pass Rent Control and co-designed a Know-your-rights mural in her hometown Richmond, CA. She assisted in passing AB 1482, the Tenant Protection Act of 2019, a statewide anti-rent gouging bill. She has traveled across the nation to engage politicians, political groups and activists to garner support in solving the housing crisis in America. She would like to serve her community through writing policy and litigating for education, housing and human rights.

Taliah Mirmalek

Hometown: Oakland, CA
Undergraduate: UC Berkeley ’16

Taliah Mirmalek is a community researcher-organizer born and raised on Ohlone Land in Oakland, California. She earned her B.A. from UC Berkeley in Rhetoric and Political Science, with high honors from the Rhetoric department for her thesis analyzing the disciplinary logic of economic sanctions. As a student, she organized with Students for Justice in Palestine. After graduation, she organized as a researcher in the labor movement, with SEIU and UNITE HERE Local 2850, advocating for low-wage service workers’ right to organize. In the year prior to law school, she followed her love of working with youth and completed a Blueprint Fellowship, teaching math to middle schoolers at United for Success Academy, an Oakland public school. She enjoys drinking chayi nabaat with her family, training for the Arbaeen Walk, and tending to seven chickens. She is excited to start law school and learn how to use the law in service of community research and youth-led organizing.

Class of 2022

Samantha Baker

Hometown: Whitethorn, CA
Undergraduate: UC Berkeley ’17

Samantha is a J.D. Candidate at UC Berkeley School of Law. She attended the University of California, Berkeley where she earned a B.A. in Legal Studies and Social Welfare. At Berkeley Law, Samantha is the Co-Leader of BRAIV, a domestic violence advocacy student organization. She also participates in anti-trafficking legal efforts and the Berkeley Journal of International Law. This summer, Samantha worked as an Intern Law Clerk at East Bay Children’s Law Offices in Oakland, CA. After graduation, she hopes to continue to serve families and children in need of legal services.

Sally Choi

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Undergraduate: Georgetown University ’17

Sally Choi graduated from Georgetown University with a B.A. in Sociology and Government. During her undergraduate years, she interned at the Alliance for Children’s Rights, primarily working with transition-aged youths in the LA County foster care system. Following graduation, Sally worked as an analyst at a litigation firm with a focus on securities fraud, government enforcement defense, international judgment enforcement, and international arbitration. Briefly before law school, she worked in the legal department at Forever 21 under the privacy and marketing team and gleaned insights into the in-house practice. At Berkeley, she’s been working as a student researcher for the Survivor Advocacy Project, spearheading the research and drafting of the writ of administrative mandamus template for Title IX proceedings. This summer, she served as a law clerk at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and worked with survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking in various stages of trial and administrative hearings. Through her experience at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, Sally discovered a passion for serving victims of gender-based violence and other marginalized communities. She sees herself growing as an advocate for these vulnerable groups.

Kaylee Johnson

Hometown: Casper, WY
Undergraduate: Stanford University ’18

Kaylee attended Stanford University, where she majored in Political Science and played for the varsity women’s basketball team. She served as a corporate paralegal at Fenwick & West LLP before law school. During her first year of law school, Kaylee joined the Negotiations Team and The Berkley Journal of African-American Law & Policy. She also dedicated her time to assisting with reentry of formerly incarcerated individuals in California. Kaylee has a strong interest in Corporate Law and its intersection with Silicon Valley.

Cissy Morgan

Hometown: Tucson, AZ
Undergraduate: University of Arizona ’17

Cissy was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona. She attended the University of Arizona, where she majored in Sociology. During her undergrad, Cissy served as a Congressional Intern for Congressman Grijalva and mentored students of color at her former high school. Cissy has a passion for social justice and science. Prior to coming to law school, she worked as a research assistant in the Police Professionalism and Changing Protest Policing Protocols Lab and Poverty in Tucson Field Project. Cissy also Co-founded the Black Lives Matter Tucson Chapter. This summer Cissy was a 1L Diversity Fellow at Perkins Coie in the Los Angeles office. She is the incoming Co-President of First-Generation Professionals and Coalition for Diversity’s Equity and Inclusion Chair.

Maddison Pilgrim

Hometown: Roseville, CA
Undergraduate: Chapman University ’19

Maddison attended Chapman University, where she double-majored in Political Science and Communication Studies, and minored in LGBTQ Studies. She was a teaching assistant for a Gender and Communication course, a student ambassador, as well as Director of Public Relations for the Chapman University Young Democrats and Communications & Publicity Chair for the Kappa Alpha Pi Pre-Law Fraternity. Maddison worked as the Lead Civic Engagement Assistant for Chapman’s Civic Engagement Initiatives, a Resident Advisor, and she most served as a Model United Nations Delegate for two years. At Berkeley Law, Maddison was a part of the Contra Costa Reentry Project, a student-initiated legal services project, serving clients in the Clean Slate Unit at Contra Costa Public Defenders. Maddison will lead students in the Contra Costa Reentry Project in her 2L year. Maddison was a member of the Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law, and Justice this past year and will serve as an Executive Editor this upcoming year. Maddison interned for the Federal Public Defender for the Eastern District of California this summer in their Capital Habeas Unit. Maddison will be joining the East Bay Community Law Center this upcoming year, serving clients in the Clean Slate Clinic.

Class of 2021

Emmanuel Perez [not pictured]

Linda Blair

Hometown: Minneapolis, MN
Undergraduate: Georgetown University ’15

Originally from Minnesota, Linda attended Georgetown University, where she majored in Psychology and minored in African American Studies. Prior to law school, she worked at The Posse Foundation, an educational nonprofit that advances student opportunities to attend top higher education institutions, and The Department of African American Studies at Georgetown. Her desire to commit to a career in law was fueled by her undergraduate experiences and an understanding that laws and policies have a direct effect on the lives of many without affording an opportunity for the them to be understood and made equitable. As a 1L, she was a participant in the SLP Community Restorative Justice, which made weekly trips to visit San Quentin State Prison. She also worked as a 1L Editor for the Berkeley Business Law Journal. As a 2L, Linda was co-president of the Student Association of Berkeley Law, Berkeley’s student government, in addition to e-board positions with the Womxn of Color Collective (WOCC) and Law Students of African Descent (LSAD). During her 2L year, she also interned for the East Bay Children’s Law Offices, a nonprofit law firm in dependency, and summered at Latham & Watkins and Winston & Strawn. Following graduation, Linda will clerk for 2 years, first for Justice Natalie Hudson of the Minnesota Supreme Court and following for Chief Judge John Tunheim for the District Court of Minnesota. Linda hopes to serve as an attorney, an advocate, and a catalyst for change.

Xiaolin Chen

Hometown: Fairport, NY
Undergraduate: Boston College ’16

Xiaolin was born in Changsha, China, and she immigrated to the U.S. at the age of seven. Xiaolin obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Boston College. While in school, Xiaolin served as an Undergraduate Research Fellow in the Memory and Perception Lab, where she investigated whether stress causes the formation of false eyewitness memories. She interned for Boston College Law School’s Innocence Program, where she utilized legal and scientific scholarship to examine juror memory and information processing. Xiaolin began work as an Assistant Paralegal for the Federal Defender Program in Atlanta, which inspired her to become an attorney and help those “who have been silenced and discarded by society.” Xiaolin was a judicial extern in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland during her 1L summer. She recently worked as a summer associate in Jones Day’s Silicon Valley Office for her 2L summer.

Rosa Hernandez

Hometown: South Central Los Angeles, CA
Undergraduate: UC Berkeley ’15

Rosa Hernandez is a 3rd year law student at Berkeley Law. She is originally from Michoacán Mexico, and will be the first lawyer in her family. She was undocumented and immigrated to the U.S. when she was five years old. Growing up undocumented taught Rosa to advocate for her community and fueled her passion for helping clients prevail over complex legal issues. Before law school, she worked with public interest organizations serving indigent clients. While at Berkeley Law, she externed for the Honorable Brad Seligman in the Complex Civil Litigation Department of a California Superior Court. She was a Summer Associate at Fox Rothschild LLP. She worked on privacy policy issues in the Samuelson Law and Technology Public Policy Clinic. Rosa graduated from UC Berkeley with Distinction and High Honors.

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