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STUDENT PROFILE Mikaila John and MariaCarolina Gomez

“Friendship, love, and service”

Mikaila John and MariaCarolina Gomez pursue shared goals—and lasting comradeship

As MariaCarolina Gomez and Mikaila John prepare to graduate from Loyola University Chicago School of Law, both agree that the experience has been everything they were hoping for—even during a pandemic. Both received an ethically based education at a school known for its social-justice mission. They gained valuable leadership skills while volunteering for student organizations. And they were given opportunities to provide those in need with important real-world legal aid related to their areas of interest. All that and the beginning of a lifelong friendship—with each other.

“We had all but one class together our first year,” says Gomez, a Mexican immigrant and first-generation lawyer who arrived on campus in 2019 from California, where she had earned an English and philosophy degree from Loyola Marymount University.

Knowing that John and Gomez were both new to Chicago, Curt and Linda Rodin Social Justice Leader-in-Residence Mary Bird suggested that the two spend a day together at Chicago Architecture Center’s Open House Chicago events to learn about the city’s history and each other. The students soon discovered that they lived one floor apart in Baumhart Hall, so they began attending events together, including ones hosted by First Generation Law Students. “We’ve been friends ever since,” says John, also a first-generation law student and a graduate of Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Both students were Diverse Access Pipeline Program Scholars their first year, and John also served as the 1L representative for the Black Law Students Association (BLSA). Gomez traveled to Arizona with the law school’s Immigrant Detention Project in March 2020.

“In our time apart, we both grew as leaders, so when we came back together, we were unstoppable!”

Two weeks later, COVID-19 closed the campus for in-person learning.

Even when classes were held remotely, the two stayed involved in law school life. Gomez, who had found an apartment in Pilsen, served as vice president of the Latino Law Students Association, the Immigrants' Rights Coalition, and Stand Up For Each Other (SUFEO), which advocates for Chicago-area students and their families involved in school-related disciplinary disputes. John, who had moved back to New Jersey, served as president of BLSA and was a student ambassador to the Office of Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity.

“In our time apart, we both grew as leaders, so when we came back together, we were unstoppable!” says John. In spring 2021, John and Gomez ran for president and vice president of Loyola’s Student Bar Association—and won. When campus reopened last fall to in-person learning, John moved in with Gomez.

“Professor Bird and her husband affectionately call our house ‘Camp David’—where the president and vice president strategize and develop ideas,” says Gomez.

“We represent the entire student body and want everyone to feel included and welcome regardless of financial status.”

As SBA president, John strived to revitalize the Loyola community amidst the COVID crisis. “The sense of comradery and supportiveness that you’d normally feel had dwindled during the pandemic, and I wanted to bring it back tenfold,” she says. “We also wanted to address the high cost of some law school events to make them more affordable, especially the ones meant to welcome and orient students.”

To help ensure a law education is more equitable and accessible, the leaders created a new SBA position: director of diversity and impact. Third-year student Cruz Rodriguez took on the role. 

“Cruz is a fierce advocate and has, along with OutLaw, educated the faculty on the use of pronouns and worked to create a bulletin board highlighting and celebrating cultural holidays, such as Black History Month, Latinx Heritage Month, and Women’s History Month,” says John. “We needed heavy hitters on the SBA board who were focused on social justice, so adding Cruz to the group made us stronger.”

“We represent the entire student body and want everyone to feel included and welcome regardless of financial status,” says Gomez. “We also tackled food insecurity issues and worked with faculty and our boards so that no law student went hungry or felt excluded. Our goal is to make these programs sustainable.”

After graduation, John will work in the litigation unit at Clark Hill’s Philadelphia office, and Gomez looks forward to starting her career in public interest law. They’re both grateful for the friendships and network of support they found at Loyola.

“Going to law school during the pandemic has not been an easy experience,” Gomez says. “I really treasure Mikaila, Professor Bird, my friends, and all that has taken place at Camp David and Loyola. The foundation of all good things consists of friendship, love, and service.” –Carla Beecher (April 2022)

 

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