New program helps underserved students achieve their goal

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Photo Courtesy of unomaha.edu

Will Patterson
A&E EDITOR

The Underserved Legal Opportunities Program (ULOP) is an upcoming program created through
the collaboration of the University of Nebraska at Omaha and the University of Nebraska College of Law. The program aims to connect UNO students from underrepresented communities to law careers.

ULOP seeks to fill the legal inequality gap. This is done by granting admission to the College of Law for ULOP participants who can maintain a 3.5 GPA throughout their undergraduate careers and reach a minimum requirement score on the Law School Admission Test.

One of the creators of the program is UNO’s Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Jonathan Benjamin-Alvarado, who is also a professor of political science.

“Families that represent students who happen to be bilingual, which is a significant and growing portion of the population, are grossly underrepresented in the legal field,” Benjamin-Alvarado said.

Students seeking admittance into the program are required to either be first-generation students or bilingual. Additionally, students must present an indication of significant community service work. These requirements tie into the program’s goal of creating community oriented legal professionals.

“The kind of law careers we’re looking at are public service law careers,” Benjamin-Alvarado said. “These are people who will be public defenders, immigration lawyers and family lawyers.”

ULOP participants will have the opportunity to intern with a variety of local nonprofit and public legal organizations, such as the ACLU, Appleseed and Justice For Our Neighbors.

But the program is intended to do more than usher students into law school and internships. It’s
designed to build a learning community of pre-law students from similar backgrounds.

While the program intends to reach out to high school students entering college in the future, it is currently seeking eligible freshmen, sophomores and juniors enrolled at UNO.

The peer learning community Benjamin-Alvarado is trying to build needs member already integrated in UNO. In addition to peers, faculty mentors will also contribute to ULOP.

“There is a huge lack of bilingual people going to law school in general,” said Cesar Magaga Linares, a UNO sophomore majoring in Latino and Latin American Studies, “That creates a huge necessity across the entire nation.”

Mahana Linares plans on participating in ULOP’s first years. He is a first-generation college student and is bilingual. Inspiration for the program spawned from the popularity surrounding the Urban Health Opportunities Program (UHOP) at UNO. Through the suggestion and cooperation between Benjamin-Alvarado and the dean of the College of Law the ULOP was conceived.

Those who are interested in participating in the program can email Jonathan Benjamin-Alvarado at jalvarado@unomaha.edu.

“This is yet another sign of UNO’s commitment to serving students where they’re at,” Benjamin Alvarado said. “What we’re very interested in is providing opportunities for students who are perhaps the first in their family to go college, yet they have demonstrated a high level of proficiency.”

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