Alum Stephanie Perez (16) was in third grade the first time she said she wanted to be an attorney. Though she didn’t entirely understand what being an attorney meant at the time, something about the title stuck knowing they were people who inspire change.

Today, as a legal assistant at the Immigration Center for Women and Children (ICWC), it’s easy to say Perez’s younger self would certainly be proud.

ICWC is a nonprofit organization that works to provide security and stability for children who are abused, abandoned, or neglected, and for immigrants who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and other violent crimes. Perez finds working in this specific legal sector is a fantastic experience that lends itself to creating and influencing change, just as she’d always envisioned.

“Don’t lose sight of your big goals and dreams, no matter what comes up and how long it may seem like it’s going to take to get there.”

Don’t lose sight of your big goals and dreams, no matter what comes up and how long it may seem like it’s going to take to get there.

As Perez learned more about the legal field, she continued to feel drawn to it. When she arrived at PLNU she found it wasn’t just her coursework that inspired her to continue and further her passion for going into the discipline of law, but also the community she surrounded herself with. While at PLNU Perez saw large disparities between her fellow students and the many diverse peoples and lifestyles in the surrounding Point Loma community. She noticed during her first year that she was the only person of color in her classes, which greatly contrasted her previous experiences growing up and attending schools where the populations had been primarily Latino. These new contrasting experiences at PLNU impassioned Perez to start working toward a more inclusive, aware, and informed community. 

While Perez had previously worked as an intake organizer analyzing potential clients for ICWC, her current job as a legal assistant allows her to analyze a case fully, preparing it from start to finish, and working closely with attorneys and fellow professionals in the legal field all working diligently to make a difference in the lives of the clients and communities they serve. 

Working with attorneys so closely and so often, Perez has had many opportunities for professional and personal growth. She recognizes that the San Diego ICWC office and team she’s a part of is the smallest out of all the organization’s other locations, but she finds that because of this closeness, the team dynamic is very tightly knit and often aids them in productivity. 

Regardless of the high productivity rates and influence of change her office has established, Perez knows that, while it’s obviously important to stay on top of things like work and academics, it’s essential to “Go out and serve with friends, learn something new, gain new experiences and perspectives that you didn’t have before.” 

Go out and serve with friends, learn something new, gain new experiences and perspectives that you didn’t have before.

At PLNU, Perez was passionate about finding balance between life, school, and service. This ideal of service and community building is something her parents have always focused on. While she enjoyed being part of a close-knit environment where she could give back and serve others during her four years at PLNU, Perez found herself feeling disconnected from her previous community after graduation. That’s when she was invited to join the service club City Heights Rotaract Club. At first Perez was apprehensive with all she had on her plate at the time. But once she attended a meeting as a guest, she realized it was something she desperately needed in her life to rekindle the communal experience of serving others in which she was used to being so immersed. This service club is actually the place where Perez heard and began to embrace one of her favorite life mottos: “Service above Self.”

At PLNU, Perez found it refreshing to see so many people called to service. This desire to instigate change to improve society and promote service for those in need is something Perez wants to continue and has already embodied through all aspects and periods of her life. 

“Feed into things you’re interested in. Life isn’t just work and school,  we also need to embrace things that feed our souls… Let yourself be interested in things and don’t get overly consumed by school, just let the experience of college take you where it needs to.” 

Life isn’t just work and school,  we also need to embrace things that feed our souls… Let yourself be interested in things and don’t get overly consumed by school, just let the experience of college take you where it needs to.

Perez knows how easy it is to feel stuck following a specific path you feel you have to take to reach your goal. In reality, however, these paths are unconventional, just like life, and you have to accept and embrace this unconventionality to work for you, not against you.

“The road isn’t always what you imagine it’s going to be. There are always going to be so many other things that you will come across and learn to love.”

Volunteer at ICWC: ICWC welcomes lawyers, law students, and others to become involved in our work. If you are interested in volunteering, please email us at info@icwclaw.org or visit icwclaw.org/contact/

Jessie Taylor is currently a Sophomore at PLNU. She is majoring in Writing and minoring in Literature. She loves being able to share people's stories on the Viewpoint and is excited to see how her writing will grow throughout this opportunity.