Heather Torres

Heather’s Essay

As a Pueblo, Navajo, and Mexican American woman, I look at my legal education as way
of respecting the sacrifices made by my ancestors and serving my family. My definition of
family reaches beyond limitations of blood. Close friends, colleagues, local community
members, and the Native community are all members of my family. With that bond comes a
responsibility to represent my relatives and protect their future endeavors. My mission is to be a
strong, community-grounded advocate, making my family proud in all I do because I am a
reflection of them. From learning my Tewa language to matriculating from professional school,
my aspirations challenge me to enhance my abilities and strive to serve my family. A law degree
will provide the Western world qualifications I need to advocate for tribal sovereignty and the
rights of young people, particularly in education. Education in itself is a right that should be
accessible to all students and attentive to all of their needs. Moreover, I will better understand the
laws that affect my reality such as the relationship the federal government has with tribal nations
and how conquest of indigenous peoples’ lands provided the foundation for various areas of law
such as property.

The research, writing, and reasoning skills law schools teach are also vital to my goal to
be better advocate for youth and tribal communities. With those skills, I see myself as a law
professor and/or practicing lawyer. I include teaching in my future as I know the affects an
invested, caring, and knowledgeable professor can have on students and the surrounding
community. From my perspective, professors are an underutilized resource. Their position within
a university setting coupled with their own expertise and writing abilities allows them to conduct
relevant and meaningful scholarship that can positively affect students and community members.
Professors can engage and challenge students on their campus and still be available to work with
youth. Furthermore, professors can offer their legal advice and insight on committees and other
national networks to support positive initiatives. At least, that is how I see myself as a professor.

Wherever I may work, my mark on the legal profession will be far reaching. I say this not
from a place of conceit, but because I am pursuing law out of love for my family; my family of
friends, colleagues, local community members, and Tribal Nations. I am the only person in my
immediate family to pursue a professional degree. I am one of eight American Indian students in
my class. I am an active member of the American Indian community in Southern California. I am
a mentor to younger students. Making a mark in the legal profession means supporting nation
building, investing in the talents of our youth, and practicing law in a different way, a way
consistent with my cultural values. The words of Dr. Cornell West pushed me to apply to law
school and serve as a reminder of my goals, “Justice is what loves looks like in public.” Part of
loving and serving my family is the passionate pursuit of justice. Ahe’hee (Thank You) for the
opportunity to apply for the Avvo scholarship.