Network of Support, Hands-on Experiences Put Undergraduate On Path To Law School

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In her short time at Dominican University of California, Sulgi Kim ’26 has thrived as a Political Science and History double major. After overcoming many of the first-year jitters students face when they make the transition to college, Sulgi is now a confident sophomore, serving as co-president of the Dominican Political Science Association (DPSA) and is continuing a summer internship with the Marin County Office of Equity.

“I wanted to push myself and see what I was capable of,” says Sulgi of her first year at Dominican. “Since I came here, I’ve been pushing myself to my fullest, my max, because I want to show not only to those people who didn’t believe in me but to me, myself, that I’m capable of doing things that I could never imagine.”

It was only five years ago that Sulgi was living in Guatemala and waiting to reunite with her mother in America for the first time in 12 years. Sulgi was attending private school and aspiring to be an attorney like her aunt.

“Most of my family are immigrants, and I have seen how they are treated. I just felt it was my calling to represent people in similar situations,” Sulgi says. “I want to do immigration law and serve people who just want a better life and, most of the time, are treated as criminals instead of human beings. I wanted to find a real reason to go to law school, and now that I’m here, I think I have found it.” 

When she moved to America, Sulgi lived with her mother and stepfather in San Rafael and became “overwhelmed” at learning English. It was July, and she was scheduled to start classes at San Rafael High School in a month. Her mother quickly prepared her for the challenge.

“As soon as I came, she said I’m not going to speak Spanish to you anymore, and if you’re going to watch TV, it’s going to be in English, and if you’re going to read it’s going to be in English,” Sulgi says. “That push, that urgency of me learning English, helped me a lot.”

In addition to high school classes, Sulgi took classes at College of Marin to accelerate her education. She appreciated the support she received from her high school English teacher, Shaun Bond, but sensed that some staff wondered whether she would be able to be able to meet the challenges of a new school and new country.

“In the three years I was in high school, I went from ELD 2 to AP English,” Sulgi says.

It was her mother’s goal to find a college where Sulgi could succeed and achieve her dreams. They didn’t have to go far.  Sulgi and her parents attended an open house at Dominican and fell in love with the beautiful campus and the supportive community. Sulgi also met Alison Howard, Dominican’s Assistant Professor of Political Science and Co-Chair of the Division of Public Affairs, who urged Sulgi to major in Political Science and helped her get on a pre-law track in the School of Liberal Arts and Education.

“Because of her support and belief in me, I was able to be co-president of DPSA in just my first year at Dominican,” Sulgi says. “This is incredible.”

Howard made two more connections for Sulgi. She suggested she either minor or double major in History and led Sulgi to Dr. Jordan Lieser, chair of the History department. Then, last spring, Howard introduced Sulgi to Julia Reinhard ’22, who attended San Domenico School in Marin before coming to Dominican and majoring in Political Science. Julia is now an aide for Marin County District 1 Supervisor Mary Sackett.

Julia, named Dominican’s “Outstanding Student” at Commencement in 2022, shared information with Sulgi about Marin County’s Career Explorers Program and encouraged her to apply for a summer internship. Manuel Benitez, Administrative Services Associate in the Equity Division, interviewed Sulgi and was impressed.

The Career Explorer Program provides opportunities to local youth who are exposed to circumstances that traditionally present barriers to employment. Those may include personal experiences with the juvenile justice system, family members with experience in either the juvenile or adult justice systems, or living in neighborhoods impacted by crime or other socioeconomic issues.

“Sulgi did it all on her own and was selected as an intern for the program from a large pool of talented candidates, and then interviewed and was placed with the Office of Equity,” Julia says. “Sulgi worked on Participatory Budgeting, and I think she planned to continue this work during the fall even though the Career Explorer Program has ended. Sulgi was a speaker at the Career Explorer Program end-of-program celebration, and she shared about her personal experiences and her time as an intern. I can’t wait to see what Sulgi does next!”

Sulgi is currently pursuing an internship with Vital Immigrant Defense Advocacy and Services (VIDAS), which provides legal immigration services at low or no costs to clients. She also has goals to study abroad in the Netherlands and would one day like to be a diplomat or an international law attorney. She is also working part time at an immigration consulate, E.R.S. Immigration Services, founded by Dominican alumna Erika Rosales-Shelfo '17, where Sulgi focuses on asylum applications. 

In the meantime, Sulgi has been busy on campus coordinating events. The DPSA set up a table on Caleruega Dining Hall Plaza on September 19th for National Voter Registration Day, and in October, Sulgi is trying to coordinate an event on campus featuring student-led organizations such as Kapamilya Club, the Black Student Union, and Latine Unidos to promote diversity at Dominican which the Marin County Office of Equity would support and help coordinate.

 In short, Sulgi wants to become an advocate to help others like others have helped her.

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