Juan Espinoza

Major and Classification

International Relations and Communication

Faculty Mentor

Kristan M. Venegas, Ph.D., Roberto Suro, M.S.


Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism

McNair Project

“Spaces of Community Wealth and Collective Energy in the “Empower Law Fellows Program”

Project Abstract

The number of Latinos attending law school decreased from 1993 to 2008 (Redfeild, 2010). Over the same period, Latino law school applicants have reached record levels. In response to the depressed enrollment and anti-affirmative action initiatives that impact diversity in law schools, postsecondary institutions, with the support of state and federal funds, have created enrichment programs to mitigate the traditional barriers experienced by underrepresented populations. This article presents a qualitative case study of high achieving, low-income, first-generation Latinos who are part of the “Empower Law Fellows Program” at a research institution in Southern California. Specifically, this study focuses on the influence of peer groups and the cohort as space where community wealth can close the gap of law school attendance for Latinos. The researcher found that Latino students in the “Empower Law Fellows Program” received positive affirmation from their peers in the cohort -necessary to boost their goal of attending law school. Students identified a collective energy to increase their aspirations to succeed in higher education.