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GOLDEN GATE LAW SCHOOL GRADS HIGHLIGHT DIVERSITY A group of Golden Gate University School of Law students have responded to dispiriting reports about the dearth of women and minorities in the legal profession with a swell of multicultural spirit. On Thursday, one day before the school’s traditional commencement ceremony, 20 students of diverse backgrounds gathered at a restaurant in the Mission District for an alternative graduation ceremony, one that honors their achievements while celebrating their ethnic cultures with family and friends. Modeled after La Raza’s annual celebrations at Hastings College of the Law and Stanford Law School, it is the first of its kind at Golden Gate. “As schools and the profession come out with numbers that indicate a decrease of minorities and of women in the profession, we thought that this would be an opportunity to highlight the triumph of folks who, against the odds, managed to finish law school and are shining examples of what can happen when things go right,” said Yaromil Velez-Ralph, a third-year law student and member of the 10-person planning committee. The ceremony featured a blessing by Xiuhcoatl Danza Azteca, a traditional Aztec dance troupe. San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi was the keynote speaker. Velez-Ralph said it took persistence and persuasion to convince the student body that a second graduation ceremony was important. “Any time there’s a first-time event, in places that are used to running things a certain way, there are people who say, ‘Well what’s that about, you already have a graduation,’” Velez-Ralph said. It took several pitches to the campus student bar association, meetings with multiple student organizations, a letter to Dean Frederic White and vigorous fundraising for a $4,000 budget before the event got off the ground. Organizers managed to raise money from more than a dozen sponsors, which included the university’s Student Bar Association, La Raza Lawyers Association and the law student division of the American Bar Association. “It has been a challenge to get people to feel like this will be a good idea,” Velez-Ralph said. “Our hope is that it will become a tradition at Golden Gate School of Law.”

Petra Pasternak

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