By the time I went to college, I knew three NFL players, but not a single lawyer, doctor or engineer..."

   
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      What did you do straight out of college?    I went straight to law school—making me the baby of my class. I always knew I wanted to be a lawyer, so I started this process in my undergrad days and I majored in Legal Studies.  As a kid, I thought it was cool to see lawyers on TV because they were argumentative, made things happen, and were well-respected.     You recently landed a summer associate position at Morrison Foerster, congratulations! How did you end up at that particular law firm?        In college, I wrote my senior thesis on gang policing in San Diego. Then in law school, I saw an article in a newspaper about the case that I had written about and read that this big law firm, Morrison Foerster, was taking it on—which shocked me because this is the kind of pro-bono case that major law firms don’t usually take.    I’m telling you, at every turn in your life if you see something that you’re interested in and that is weighing on your mind, investigate it and stay invested in it because you never know what that thing can turn into later—that’s kind of what happened with my interest in gang policing. When I saw the press release, I actually called the law firm and left a message on the partner’s answering machine, introducing and pitching myself to them. I didn’t hear from them for a while, but one night they had a reception at Berkeley and the partner called me the night before and told me I should go to the event.  I went to the event, sent a follow up email afterwards, went through on-campus recruiting, survived it, and got a job offer.

What did you do straight out of college?

I went straight to law school—making me the baby of my class. I always knew I wanted to be a lawyer, so I started this process in my undergrad days and I majored in Legal Studies.  As a kid, I thought it was cool to see lawyers on TV because they were argumentative, made things happen, and were well-respected. 

You recently landed a summer associate position at Morrison Foerster, congratulations! How did you end up at that particular law firm?

 In college, I wrote my senior thesis on gang policing in San Diego. Then in law school, I saw an article in a newspaper about the case that I had written about and read that this big law firm, Morrison Foerster, was taking it on—which shocked me because this is the kind of pro-bono case that major law firms don’t usually take.  

I’m telling you, at every turn in your life if you see something that you’re interested in and that is weighing on your mind, investigate it and stay invested in it because you never know what that thing can turn into later—that’s kind of what happened with my interest in gang policing. When I saw the press release, I actually called the law firm and left a message on the partner’s answering machine, introducing and pitching myself to them. I didn’t hear from them for a while, but one night they had a reception at Berkeley and the partner called me the night before and told me I should go to the event.  I went to the event, sent a follow up email afterwards, went through on-campus recruiting, survived it, and got a job offer.

   
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   Cheyenne's college graduation.      
  
   
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    I’m curious, do you talk about being first-gen in interviews or at law school?     I think the first-generation story is so powerful during interviews. I worked for this and while it might seem undermining to be a first-generation student, it has value, it means something. During school, it always seems like a negative, but during interviews it becomes symbolic of the hard work you’ve put in. I remember during one of my call backs I had this dreamy, surreal interview in a glass room on the 20-something floor of a building in San Francisco—everything I’d always dreamed about, and it was all the more powerful, knowing where I started out and how hard I had to work to get here. This is it, this is everything.     You must feel on top of the world. But as I'm sure you know, everything doesn't always go the way we want it to; when things don’t work out, what do you do to keep going?      Part of it is happening a good group of people to keep you grounded. Keeping perspective is also key; I try to have a long-term goal available to me that I can look towards—so that if I’m going through a short-term failure, I can keep perspective. It's also important to remember what your goals are and that your grades aren’t everything. Which is hard because sometimes people oversell the significance of grades, and obviously grades do matter, but you also can’t drive yourself crazy. Lastly, always be willing to be the best version of yourself—don’t bring your Monday, “meh” self and sell yourself short.   
  
   
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      You do a million things. What are some of the strategies you use to keep on top of everything and stay sane?    Someone told me that you should try to treat law school like a job. So I try to get all my reading done at school so that I don’t have to take it home with me. If I’m going to school I go to class and then try to get my work done for the next day while I'm still at school. It’s definitely not always possible, especially during your first year, but I try to leave myself some time at home to relax.   

Cheyenne's college graduation.

I’m curious, do you talk about being first-gen in interviews or at law school? 

I think the first-generation story is so powerful during interviews. I worked for this and while it might seem undermining to be a first-generation student, it has value, it means something. During school, it always seems like a negative, but during interviews it becomes symbolic of the hard work you’ve put in. I remember during one of my call backs I had this dreamy, surreal interview in a glass room on the 20-something floor of a building in San Francisco—everything I’d always dreamed about, and it was all the more powerful, knowing where I started out and how hard I had to work to get here. This is it, this is everything.

 You must feel on top of the world. But as I'm sure you know, everything doesn't always go the way we want it to; when things don’t work out, what do you do to keep going?

 Part of it is happening a good group of people to keep you grounded. Keeping perspective is also key; I try to have a long-term goal available to me that I can look towards—so that if I’m going through a short-term failure, I can keep perspective. It's also important to remember what your goals are and that your grades aren’t everything. Which is hard because sometimes people oversell the significance of grades, and obviously grades do matter, but you also can’t drive yourself crazy. Lastly, always be willing to be the best version of yourself—don’t bring your Monday, “meh” self and sell yourself short. 

You do a million things. What are some of the strategies you use to keep on top of everything and stay sane?

Someone told me that you should try to treat law school like a job. So I try to get all my reading done at school so that I don’t have to take it home with me. If I’m going to school I go to class and then try to get my work done for the next day while I'm still at school. It’s definitely not always possible, especially during your first year, but I try to leave myself some time at home to relax. 

   
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   With summer co-workers at the East Bay Community Law Center’s “Clean Slate” clinic. At this event, Cheyenne (second from the right) helped review rap-sheets and discussed the criminal record remedies available to participants.      
  
   
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    Some people think “Well, yeah you’re first-gen, but in college everyone is adapting to a new environment, not just you, what’s the big deal?” What do you say to those people?       It’s about resources. I remember when I was a freshman in college, a lot of my roommates had parents who went to college and when they had a problem or needed help with their homework they called their mom or dad. When I called my mom, I got a pep talk and a “You go! You can do this!” But then I had to figure it out on my own.  Really, it’s about the  immediacy  of resources, because while you do have all these student resources available, there’s nothing like being able to call someone you feel comfortable with and who knows what to do. There’s also an anxiety that goes along with reaching out to those resources because a lot of students worry that they’ll sound stupid for not knowing already. Remember, asking for help is not a reflection of your intellect, it’s about learning how to navigate the environment and find the things that are going to help you succeed.    Why do we need more first-generation success stories? What is the advantage of having more kids going through this process successfully?     People might disagree, but I think it’s most important to their communities to have first-generation success stories. Where I grew up, in San Diego, I knew three NFL players by the time I got to college—I didn’t know any lawyers, doctors, or engineers, but I knew three NFL players. That has a symbolic, communicative effect on a community. There’s nothing to be said for kids who don’t want to take the athletic route. Where do they look to find that example? And a lot of times, when kids don’t find it, they assume it’s just too hard or not possible. You believe what you see. When you don’t have access to people in the profession you aspire to, when you don’t have an example, it just becomes so abstract. I wish I had known a lawyer growing up, but the little kids in my family? They see it.

With summer co-workers at the East Bay Community Law Center’s “Clean Slate” clinic. At this event, Cheyenne (second from the right) helped review rap-sheets and discussed the criminal record remedies available to participants.

Some people think “Well, yeah you’re first-gen, but in college everyone is adapting to a new environment, not just you, what’s the big deal?” What do you say to those people?

 It’s about resources. I remember when I was a freshman in college, a lot of my roommates had parents who went to college and when they had a problem or needed help with their homework they called their mom or dad. When I called my mom, I got a pep talk and a “You go! You can do this!” But then I had to figure it out on my own.

Really, it’s about the immediacy of resources, because while you do have all these student resources available, there’s nothing like being able to call someone you feel comfortable with and who knows what to do. There’s also an anxiety that goes along with reaching out to those resources because a lot of students worry that they’ll sound stupid for not knowing already. Remember, asking for help is not a reflection of your intellect, it’s about learning how to navigate the environment and find the things that are going to help you succeed.

Why do we need more first-generation success stories? What is the advantage of having more kids going through this process successfully?

People might disagree, but I think it’s most important to their communities to have first-generation success stories. Where I grew up, in San Diego, I knew three NFL players by the time I got to college—I didn’t know any lawyers, doctors, or engineers, but I knew three NFL players. That has a symbolic, communicative effect on a community. There’s nothing to be said for kids who don’t want to take the athletic route. Where do they look to find that example? And a lot of times, when kids don’t find it, they assume it’s just too hard or not possible. You believe what you see. When you don’t have access to people in the profession you aspire to, when you don’t have an example, it just becomes so abstract. I wish I had known a lawyer growing up, but the little kids in my family? They see it.

   
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   Cheyenne after completing her oral argument for the required Written and Oral Advocacy course at Berkeley Law.      
  
   
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    Is there anything you’d like to say to a sixteen-year-old student sitting in a high school that maybe doesn’t have the best academic track record or who wants to aim for a better future, but maybe doesn’t see those opportunities?    I’m public school all the way—elementary, middle, high school, college  and  law school. It can be done. Dream as big as you want to—this is so cliché—but don’t ever let anyone tell you what you can’t do. If you work for it, it’s totally possible. I think people underestimate the value of hard work. I have all these stories about teachers who tried to tell me what I could and couldn’t do. I mean, when you’re 16, what can you say? They have power, you don’t, you’re a kid. People are haters, so dream. Figure out what’s going to make you happy and work for it.

Cheyenne after completing her oral argument for the required Written and Oral Advocacy course at Berkeley Law.

Is there anything you’d like to say to a sixteen-year-old student sitting in a high school that maybe doesn’t have the best academic track record or who wants to aim for a better future, but maybe doesn’t see those opportunities?

I’m public school all the way—elementary, middle, high school, college and law school. It can be done. Dream as big as you want to—this is so cliché—but don’t ever let anyone tell you what you can’t do. If you work for it, it’s totally possible. I think people underestimate the value of hard work. I have all these stories about teachers who tried to tell me what I could and couldn’t do. I mean, when you’re 16, what can you say? They have power, you don’t, you’re a kid. People are haters, so dream. Figure out what’s going to make you happy and work for it.