Passion for Social Justice Fuels Law Student’s Success
Leslie Estrada Flynn overcame long odds to pursue a law degree at GGU. She wants to use her education to help marginalized communities like the one she’s from remove barriers to education, employment, and healthcare.
Growing up in an underserved Black and Latinx community in south Los Angeles, first-year law student Leslie Estrada Flynn didn’t always know that she wanted to be a lawyer.
“In my neighborhood, there were kids that weren’t told that they could do really great things with their lives,” recalls Leslie. “A lot of people didn’t have great jobs and relied on food stamps or Section 8 housing. The apartments we lived in were broken down. We had slum lords.”
As a child, she felt hopeless because she didn’t think there was anything she could do to improve her situation or help her community.
Her father, a machinist, and mother, a house cleaner, were dedicated to Leslie and her brother and made their education the number one priority, enrolling them in in a small, private Christian school through subsidized tuition.
“It took me a long time to get to where I am today,” reflected Leslie. “It took a lot of people encouraging me. My parents sacrificed so that we could pursue our dreams and ambitions. They pushed us to do the most we could.”
Advocating for Change
Eventually, Leslie realized that she wanted to help neighborhoods like the one she grew up in.
“There were a lot of incredible people in my neighborhood,” she commented. “I’ve had friends who succumbed to drug abuse, gang activity, who ended up going to juvenile hall. I wanted to help them but didn’t know how. I believe if we implemented policies that remove barriers to education, employment, and health care our communities would be better off.”
After graduating from Cal State University, Dominguez Hills in 2016, Leslie worked for Human Rights Watch advocating at the state level for Senate Bill 1391, which ended the transfer of youth under age 16 to adult criminal court where they were being tried as adults. In addition, she worked with Reform L.A. Jails as a community organizer garnering support from the county to pass Measure R, which overwhelmingly won with the mandate to create more accountability over the Sherriff’s Department that watches over jails and instruct lawmakers to create a plan to reduce the jail population.
GGU Law Bound
Once Leslie set her sights on law school, GGU caught her interest due to its proximity to social justice nonprofits and because she knew it was a small community that cared about its students.
“I like that it’s a smaller law school focused on churning out good advocates,” said Leslie. “During the online tour, faculty made me feel really welcomed. I like that the student population is extremely diverse. I am drawn to that strong sense of community.”
Leslie is an alum of LEAP (Legal Education Access Pipeline) program, formed to introduce underrepresented prospective law students to law school and to help them produce the best possible law school application. She also received the Pipeline to Practice fellowship which gives 40-50 diverse students each year a fellowship and academic support during three years of law school, and the Change Lawyers scholarship which gives 30 awards nationally to diverse first-year law school students.
“I’m so grateful to these programs because if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here right now,” said Leslie. “I feel so blessed and privileged to be where I am.”
As a first-year law student, Leslie is adjusting well to the rigors of law school. Her professors have been extremely helpful and she appreciates the diversity of professional backgrounds in the student body.
“I’ve met people who have military experience, people who have done policy work, people straight out of undergrad, parents,” said Leslie. “It’s refreshing because every day you’re learning about your classmates and their work.”
Passion for Public Interest
Her professional goal is to work in public interest law, be it government work or operating at the grassroots level.
“It’s my hope to work alongside marginalized communities, using the tools that I have to help them further their goals through policy work,” said Leslie. “I was privileged in that I had the education to get to where I am today and I want to give back. That’s just what I feel I’m here for: to serve others.”
She’s grateful for all the people behind her, watching out for her, encouraging her, and cheering her on; She believes that it takes a village.
“GGU Law is really demanding, but it is doable for someone like me who doesn’t come from a prestigious background. GGU has a great small community of people that are really invested in you. You never know until you go for it. To prospective law students I would say, just go for it.”