At Loyola, Alvarez jumped into serving clients right away through initiatives like the Business Law Clinic (BLC). “All of my clients in the BLC are people of color, which is empowering to me,” she says. “I love knowing that I am helping minorities start the businesses of their dreams or starting organizations that are fulfilling the needs they see in their community.” She also volunteers with Instituto de Progreso Latino on Chicago’s South Side, helping immigrants apply for American citizenship.
Learning from Mentors
When Illinois Appellate Justice Jesse G. Reyes saw Alvarez’s application for the Judicial Internship Opportunity Program, his office reached out for an interview and hired her on the spot. Alvarez spent summer 2019 researching criminal law cases and observing the way Reyes runs his office. “He is someone who is selfless when it comes to his time,” she says. “There were always people visiting—law students interning at other places, or high school students he’s invited to the courtroom so they can see what it looks like.”
Interning with Reyes showed Alvarez how pro-bono, community-minded work functions in the real world. She also saw firsthand the importance of diversity in politics. In fact, Alvarez was so inspired by her time with Reyes that when her internship ended, she volunteered with his campaign for the Illinois Supreme Court.
“Reyes is sharing his story about the fact that he came from a blue-collar family,” she says. “People talk about how representation matters, and he really embodies that.”
When Alvarez began at Loyola as a first-generation law student, she didn’t know what to expect. She was surprised by things like the cost of books and the competitive nature of law school. She says that students who grew up around lawyers have a jump start on knowledge as simple as interview etiquette and what to wear in a courtroom.
“A lot of the conversations I was having with fellow first-generation students were like, ‘I wish I knew. How was I supposed to know this?’” she says. “Some people come into law school not knowing one attorney.”
Her solution? Alvarez founded First Generation Law Students, an organization chartered by Loyola in January 2020. So far, plans include speed-networking events, first-generation student convocation, and dinners, and a summer program for first-generation students. She also organized Loyola’s first panel of first-generation students speaking to first-generation incoming students at orientation.
“[First-generation students] always feel like we’re behind—or we just experience imposter syndrome in general,” she says. “But we’re all here. We’re all sitting in the same seats.”