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Unmasked and Unafraid

Melanie Berdecia, HLS ‘15

Some people think of their first semester at law school as one of the worst times of their life. Many of the students that came to law school with hopes of using the law as a mechanism for social change discover that doing so can be a painstakingly slow process. Others that came to law school searching for a way to make money while balancing other life priorities discover that reading cases about whether a tomato is a vegetable or a fruit may not be what they want to do for the rest of their life. I on the other hand, discovered that I loved being here. I felt accepted by the Harvard Law School community. I thoroughly enjoyed most of the cases we read in class (my favorite were the Torts cases) and, most importantly, I continued to embrace my identity. Like in college, I wanted everyone to know I am a second-generation Dominican immigrant from the South Bronx. I wanted everyone to know that I was raised in a loving single parent household with an older brother that I love dearly. I did not feel I had to take a certain path, or believe certain thoughts, and did not think I would ever have to be the token Latina.

Although second semester has been a little bit different, I still feel glad to be here. Sometimes it is uncomfortable. When my peers are correcting my pronunciation of certain English words I have never heard before, or when I use my identity and educational background as a tool to explain my passion for social justice issues, I find myself trying to prove to others who I am, and why I am who I am. Thankfully though, all of these experiences are educational experiences.  I am fortunate that I have not yet had to wear a mask. I continue to wear my identity proudly every single day.


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