King Hall Celebrates Class of 2017 Public Service Graduation
The King Hall community gathered on April 28 for a Public Service Graduation ceremony celebrating members of the Class of 2017 who completed the School of Law’s Public Service certificate program and honoring student achievements in public service law. The event featured remarks from Dean Kevin R. Johnson, Professors Irene Oritseweyinmi Joe, Holly Cooper, and Carter “Cappy” White, as well as Associate Director for Public Interest & Government Sofia L. Parino, keynote speaker Benjamin Bac Sierra, and numerous King Hall students.
“I want to congratulate the Class of 2017,” Dean Johnson said. “For me, every year this is the most significant event on our law school calendar, as we honor the students who have done such wonderful and important things in starting their career off by trying to change some of the injustices in our society.”
More than half of the Class of 2017 was recognized at the ceremony, with 61 students earning Public Interest certificates and 30 earning pro bono certificates for volunteer work. The event included the presentation of the Clinical Recognition Award to Aldo Evan Martinez Gomez ’17 and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Service Award to Stephanie Medina ’17.
“Collectively, public service scholars have devoted over 35,000 hours to public service work,” Parino said. “Their efforts have benefitted legal aids, courts, and government agencies. They have worked to improve the lives of the most disenfranchised members of our community and communities across the country in meaningful and tangible ways. Today, we honor their vison, leadership, and demonstrated commitment to public service.”
Professor Joe talked about the importance of self-care for new lawyers and encouraged the Class of 2017 to use their skills to help create a society where everyone feels cared for and can be heard. “Remember that public interest law is about using your power, your education and your status in the world to be kind, and to help people when they may not even expect it, because they’re aren’t entirely sure they deserve it,” said Joe. “So get in there, rough up your hands, but keep you spirit strong, and tell those people that they not only deserve your help, but it is your honor to give it to them.”
Benjamin Bac Sierra, an author, Professor at City College of San Francisco, and community activist, gave a passionate address describing his role in leading a community response to the police killing of Alex Nieto in San Francisco and talking about the role of lawyers and community leaders play in social change.
“Roots are the reason all flowers bloom,” he said. “You, fresh graduates, are the roots. From this day forward, your job is to use your public service and education in a practical, action-oriented manner. You may be sheep amongst the wolves, but the wolves have been greedy for too long. It is our time. It is your time. Together, we are a stampede.”
Following the Public Service Graduation, the School of Law hosted a Class of 2017 Farewell BBQ in the King Hall courtyard. As part of the event, incoming Alumni Board President Kim Lucia ’09 presented the Alumni Board award to Alexandra Guerra ‘17. Images of both events are available on the UC Davis School of Law Facebook page.