Student to pursue career helping immigrants

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Hector Arroyo De La Paz participated in the UCDC program in Washington, D.C. He is wrapping up a quarter there and completed two internships—one at an immigration law firm and another at the Capitol.

From a young age, Hector Arroyo De La Paz knew college would be a part of his future.

While his parents didn’t attend themselves, they stressed the importance of a college education, taking him and his sisters to visit several campuses around California. “It was not about if I wanted to go to college but what school I would go to,” he said.

This month, the 22-year-old graduates from UC Santa Cruz with a bachelor’s degree in legal studies and Latin American and Latino studies. He credits his parents for making it happen. “I really do owe them all my success,” he said.

Born in Mexico, Arroyo De La Paz moved to the U.S. with his family when he was 3. The family settled in Victorville in San Bernardino County where his father eventually got a job as a factory worker and his mother stayed home to look after their three children.

Arroyo De La Paz entered the university in fall 2015. He chose the campus over a couple of other options in the University of California system because of the financial aid and the appealing setting.

“Being a kid from the desert, I did like the idea of moving to the forest and being close to the ocean,” he said. “It was calling my name.”

His most memorable courses tackled the broad themes of justice and human rights.

He liked Comparative Law because it was taught by Jacqueline Gehring, who is very funny and engaging, and because it compared legal systems all over the world. “It was very informative and very mind opening,” he said.

He loved Race and Ethnicity because it explored the racism within communities of color and the reality experienced by indigenous and black communities in Latin America.

Arroyo De La Paz also loved being able to escape to the beach whenever the stress of school got too much. He and his friends would head to West Cliff Drive and look at the waves or go to the boardwalk, buy wristbands, and enjoy all the carnival rides.

A more recent highlight of his college experience has been participating in the UCDC program in Washington, D.C. He is wrapping up a quarter there and has joined other students from other University of California campuses in studying and living together and pursuing internships. He completed two internships—one at an immigration law firm and another at the Capitol.

“I loved it,” he said. “I think it’s a beautiful city—it might be my favorite that I’ve been to.”

Still, he’s looking forward to returning to California and reuniting with his family. After graduation, he plans to take some time off from school and get a job perhaps working at another immigration law firm or as a counselor or adviser at a university.

But eventually, he plans to apply to law school and study immigration law.

“I want to do this to be able to help out people that have gone through the same struggles as me and my family,” he said.

Arroyo De La Paz said he is so grateful for all the help his parents gave him with school despite their language barrier. They did the best they could to help him navigate the application process even though they had no experience with it.

They also provided him with good examples of how to work hard. “It is an example of the American dream,” he said. “They left their country because there weren’t any job opportunities, the economy was really bad, there was violence and it was not livable. They had the courage to come to the U.S.”

His younger sister recently graduated from high school and is also planning to start college in the fall. She will be attending Harvard University.