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Ogden Alum Reflects on Overcoming Adversity to Become a Role Model for Aspiring Hispanic Attorneys

Writing an effective personal statement or narrative is often the most difficult and lengthy part of the fellowship application process. It requires much thought, effort, feedback, rewriting, and editing. It is a critical factor in determining one’s advancement in scholarship and fellowship competitions. Personal statements also help students reflect on their journey and help them set aspirational goals for their futures. 

When Ogden alum Anthony Tan (Political Science ‘15) was asked by his law firm to share a unique, personal story for Hispanic Heritage Month, he immediately thought about a personal statement he wrote with the help of the Office of Fellowship Advising:

 “I could not construct a functioning sentence, let alone write an entire paper, until my senior year of high school. Though I went to private school my entire life, up until that point, I never valued my education. In fact, I, a confused freshman, was kicked out of one of the best preparatory schools in my hometown, and I could not fathom the ramifications this experience would have on my future. Next year, I enrolled in, and would eventually graduate from, a high school where many of my peers had to work full time jobs to survive. It seems odd, then, that I would go on to graduate college from Louisiana State University's Honors College, summa cum laude, and eventually graduate from one of the country’s top law schools, the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School.  But it is because of these experiences, not in spite of them, that I am able to cherish the value of my education and give back to the Hispanic community.

I rebelled against society and my teachers before getting kicked out. While I learned the basics of mathematics, reading, and history, I was purposely failing at school, skipping class, and causing trouble. One day, while sneaking out of school, I climbed a jagged-edged 15-foot fence.  When I landed on the other side, all I saw was my blood-stained white oxford, some crimson spots on my khaki pants, and two three-inch lacerations on my palms, which made my complex network of veins and arteries visible to the naked eye.  In the hospital room, I realized that this excruciating pain was nothing compared to the pain I would feel if I continued down this road.  So, I promised myself that I would change. I examined my behavior and decided then and there to turn my life around. Despite my counselor not believing in me, I enrolled in AP and honor classes.  By the time senior year arrived, I raised my GPA from a 2.3 to a 3.5. 

During my time at the LSU Honors College, I learned the art of rhetoric from Cicero and Pericles.  I danced with pitiful Achilles and humanist Hector and grappled with their sufferings in the midst of a force that not even the gods dare face.  Sorrowful Dido still calls out to me in her lament.  From flirting with the idea of Medea as an Achillean hero to exploring the endless road of Plato’s cave allegory, my academic journey has culminated in, as Socrates would say, the appreciation of the examined life.  My intellectual odyssey has shown me that human civilization has advanced throughout the millennia because great minds have seen what others could not.  As I embark forward on my life’s journey, I take with me the knowledge of history’s greatest thinkers, and I hope that by standing on the shoulders of these giants, I will be able to show others like me the value of critical thought, debate, and reason through my actions.”

Tan wrote this personal statement in HNRS3010, a class on leadership and scholarship. He went on to receive the Hispanic Scholarship Foundation scholarship and the Minority Corporate Counsel Association Scholarship which helped him further his education at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. 

Tan believes the experiences he shares in his personal statement sharpened his work ethic and have shaped his time as an attorney at Latham & Watkins. “Whether I am working on a notes offering or drafting corporate resolutions, I’ve learned that there is no replacement for hard work. It is often our attitude and grit that shape our experiences,” he says.

Diverse viewpoints shape the law and push the law forward. Tan knows that despite the power of the Hispanic community, Hispanic representation in the legal profession is not at the level it should be. As a member of Latham’s Hispanic / Latin American Lawyers (HLA) affinity group, he hopes he is modeling what it means to be a practicing Hispanic attorney.