Posted: February 17th, 2022
SHIRLEY HERNANDEZ PERSONAL STATEMENT
I have devoted my entire life to helping people. I always knew that I wanted this devotion to become my career, for it is indeed a beautiful thing when passion and career come together. For the longest time, I used to think that the best way to help people was through medicine. Throughout high school and the first half of college, I focused on science. I did this in hopes of getting into medical school. Yet, I later realized that I wasn’t good at science like I’d hoped I would be. In my junior year of college, I switched from a biology major to a healthcare policy and pre-law major. This switch in major helped me grow as a person and academically.
My grade point average improved dramatically, and I, in turn, received a department award for outstanding scholarship, as well as making onto the dean’s honour roll for the entirety of my senior year. I figured that if I combined my passion for helping others with the law field, I would still be able to accomplish my goal of devoting my life to public service. I didn’t know much about the law field, but I figured I would like it due to its devotion to justice. After all, the application of justice ensures us that freedom, happiness, and truth can exist for all. Further, I firmly believe the words of Martin Luther King Jr. that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.
I used to go back and forth in my head, thinking that I was a failure for not being good at medicine, and I’d question whether I would be helping people to the extent I wanted to by pursuing a career in law. However, a particular event occurred in my life that essentially reaffirmed my belief that I had chosen the correct career path by following the law. I found out that I was pregnant the summer before my senior year of college. I had no idea what to do; I knew I was young and that a child could make pursuing my career a little harder, especially since I would have been a single mother. I have always been a person who’s supported the pro-choice argument, so I considered the option of an abortion. Yet, after much deliberation, I decided not to terminate my pregnancy. I knew continuing school would be difficult but not impossible, and I was willing to put in the extra effort to excel in my education while also being a full-time single mom. Unfortunately, the father of my child found out I was expecting around the 9th week of my pregnancy. When he first contacted me, he tried to convince me to terminate the pregnancy because it would ruin my life by not allowing me to further my education; soon after, he began to harass me with threats that if I didn’t terminate the pregnancy, he would commit suicide and blame it on me. I received these threats daily through calls, messages, surprise visits to my home for two weeks straight. He used the excuse that having a baby would be detrimental to his “already crippling mental health.” His threats got the best of me, and I went to terminate the pregnancy.
It wasn’t until senior year began that I took a moot court class to fulfil my pre-law requirements for my university. One of the cases we reviewed in moot court dealt with coercion. I learned that coercion is the practice of persuading someone with the use of threats or force. I also learned that coercion is illegal and punishable by law. It then dawned on me that I had been coerced into having an abortion. This experience made me realize that no one should ever have to go through these situations. This situation brought me a lot of pain, and I wish I hadn’t gone through it, but it was something I could overcome and learn from. More importantly, it shaped me into the person I am today. The situation I was in may not have been ideal, but it was a learning experience not only for myself but also for my career. Once you experience a wrong that has been committed against you, you become knowledgeable about the act. You can help educate others to prevent a similar situation from happening to them. If a situation like this were to happen to someone, I would be able to offer them the maximum amount of help because I can relate to them. Through this, I can help bring justice to these unfair situations that we think have no remedy.
I feel like not many people know about the severity of coercion or how to deal with its effects; for one, they didn’t. My knowledge and experience of it are what make me an ideal candidate for law school. After this event, I have reflected on my childhood and realized that I lost many childhood friends to gangs due to coercion. Minors tend to commit crimes to either protect themselves or others or impress gang members. Influence and coercion have a lot to do with this. I cannot only understand and help resolve issues with coercion but, more importantly, educate minors about it to help prevent them from falling into its dangers again.
I am exceedingly motivated to pursue a career in law due to the current affairs happening in the world today, particularly the human rights violations raised during the Syrian civil war. A lack of justice is seen in Syria; it is a large-scale global problem. The general principles of human rights laws are breached during the war and daily, such as wrongful convictions and discrimination. Criminal law combined with human rights is the specific area of law I aim to thrive in. This would enable me to contribute to bringing about equality and justice challenged by today’s society.
I admire the University of San Francisco’s mission of being consistent with the Jesuit tradition in contributing to society by inspiring the pursuit of justice by serving the community. The university’s mission aligns with my morals and holds the opportunity for me to help minors through the criminal and juvenile justice law clinic. I would be most honored if your institution granted me the chance of admission, for it truly would help me in my mission of devoting my life to helping others receive justice to ensure a happy and truthful life.
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