McGeorge School of Law

Profile: Melody Aguilar

Melody Aguilar
Melody Aguilar

Class of 2018

Hometown: Stockton, CA (born in Lima, Peru)
Undergraduate: UC Santa Cruz
Major: Sociology and Legal Studies

Melody was born in Lima, Peru yet was raised in Stockton, California. "I came to the United States when I was three years old and the majority of my family is still in Peru." As a first-generation child to an immigrant couple, her parents raised her to value the importance of education and the power that it holds for her. "I have always placed a big emphasis on education because my parents always told me that was the one thing, that could never be taken away from me." With that in mind, Melody took community college courses while she was attending high school. "When I graduated high school I also graduated with four A.A. degrees."

She graduated three years later from UC Santa Cruz two bachelor's degrees in Sociology and Legal Studies. "I found my voice and identity at UC Santa Cruz by being active in the student movement, fighting to make higher education more affordable and diverse. I was the student speaker at Governor Jerry Brown's Press Conference at UC Santa Cruz in 2012; I was speaking on the importance of voting for Prop 30 which prevented defunding of higher education." Her time in high school along with her undergraduate experiences, helped her make the decision to pursue a career in law where she can give back to her community.

"I kept getting frustrated with the little capacity I had to help others, mostly my peers making bad decisions or needing help getting out of sticky situations. The most I could ever do was give good advice or try to help keep them sane. At the same time, I had a huge passion for social justice which really expanded with my involvement with student government at UC Santa Cruz. I couldn't quite figure out how to channel my passion for public speaking, being a leader, and wanting to be an advocate. Then, in high school, my parents told me that lawyers have a huge amount of power to create individual and societal change so as I looked more into the legal field as a potential career, I realized that was for me. Before my parents had mentioned this to me, I had no idea what a lawyer really did or what the typical work day looked like since I am a first generation student and didn't actually know any lawyers."

Before coming to law school, she worked with Child Protection Services as a Case Manager Family Advocate for six months, which was both a mentally stimulating and emotionally gratifying role. "That experience was perhaps the most emotionally rewarding six months of my life. I worked with families that had various levels of involvement with CPS and helped connect them to community resources such as food, housing, clothing, health-care, education, employment, etc. I have more stories than you will ever have time for regarding my work experience!"

While she fondly remembers her experiences with her involvement in Child Protective Services, she admits that the most challenging event in her life thus far has been her time at McGeorge. However, she is proud of her accomplishments and is positive she will continue to strive both with her own perseverance and family's support. "Because my parents are immigrants, no one has ever 'shown me the way' to making it to higher education. I have learned every part of the process on my own and have had to find the answers to all of my questions in sources that are not familial. I do not think that my ancestors ever imagined our family would make it to the United States and much less be in law school but here I am. The first semester was a huge emotional battle because I was still feeling out of place and had to recreate my comfort. Once I found support from a couple of good friends and faculty, I have been able to focus on my studies and my grades."

Melody participated in the Inter-American Summer Program in Guatemala and is now pursuing an International Certificate of Concentration at McGeorge. She is also very engaged in the immigration field and is currently a certified law student at the Immigration Clinic. Melody would like to continue to work with under-represented communities and use her native language, Spanish, to give a voice to those in need. "Spanish is my first language and I have been interpreting and translating for my parents pretty much since I learned English. I recorded a couple of Spanish songs in a studio in Peru. I was on two dance teams at UC Santa Cruz one was multicultural and the other was Latin. My Peruvian culture is still a huge part of my life today and helps me feel balanced."