Former AC student Roman Leal graduates from Yale Law School

There is no doubt that students who begin their exploration of academia at a community college can and do enroll in universities of high distinction.

Roman Leal, alumnus of Amarillo College, who in May received his JD from Yale Law School, is a perfect example. The accomplishment was achieved just three years after scoring in the top three percent on the Law School Admissions Test – the LSAT.

Leal, whose transferable credit hours from Amarillo College laid the foundation for a bachelor’s degree in English at West Texas A&M University, chose Yale over a number of law schools to which he was accepted, including Harvard.

After:Amarillo-area students earn college degrees, honors

Leal’s next stop will be at the prestigious California law firm Munger, Tolles & Olsen, where he will launch his professional career this summer. Additionally, in January he will begin a career expansion internship with Judge Gabriel Sanchez of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Although his path to a career in law has been atypical – and his story is not limited to academics – Leal believes that some of his academic success was achieved not despite his community college experience, but through cause of it.

“I loved my time at Amarillo College,” Leal said. “I especially loved the environment and the diversity in the classrooms, the ethnic and age diversity, the diversity of backgrounds of all the people. It was such a deep environment in which to learn and interact, so instructive , like drinking water from a fire hose.

“I think only four of us in my class at Yale started out at community colleges,” he said, “and I think we had a huge advantage over our peers because we saw and interacted with a diverse cross-section of the country, people most Yale Law School students are unfamiliar with.

Pictures:Start of Amarillo College 2022

Leal was 17 in 2009 when he first signed up for AC, and he was already a budding entrepreneur at the time.

Roman and his girlfriend Amy, now his wife, were both 17 when they started a wholesale coffee roasting business out of their garage. It grew and in the third year they decided to expand into the retail market and opened a store. Evocation Coffee flourished, but it also took a lot of extra time to operate, so Roman, who had racked up a few dozen credit hours at AC by then, quit college to devote his body and soul to the coffee trade.

However, a day came when a completely different dream began to germinate…

The way Roman tells it, he and a friend, both 25 at the time, were drinking cups of the best of Evocation when the friend pointed out that both of their career paths were basically set in stone. By sticking to their current trajectories, the friend said, they could roughly predict how their professional lives would unfold over the next 25 years, and basically predict what life would be like for each of them. at 50 years old.

“I decided then that I didn’t want to sell coffee at 50,” says Leal. “I mean, I loved the coffee business, and we were doing really well and were about to expand into another city. But I knew that if I ever had to do anything other than sell coffee, I would have to take action. right away, and that’s what I did.

“I like solving puzzles, and I like debating and writing,” he said. “Becoming a lawyer seemed like a natural career path that would satisfy all of these passions.”

Roman and Amy immediately began outsourcing the day-to-day of their coffee empire. Roman took more courses at AC, focusing on English. Those accomplished, he transferred to WT and set his sights on studying law, preferably at an Ivy League school, a plan he evidently saw come to fruition.

After:Amarillo College Celebrates the Spring 2022 Class

At Yale, he was handpicked by the dean, Heather Gerken, to serve as her research assistant after being appointed to President Biden’s commission to review legal issues such as height increase. of the Supreme Court and the mandatory retirement age for federal judges. He also had the privilege of interning with U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in the District of Columbia.

Yet even after enjoying many unique and impactful mentorships since his first foray into higher education, Leal happily continues to give his first college its due.

“I’ve had the immense privilege of learning from amazing professors at WT and Yale, but I can say without a doubt that the professors at Amarillo College are first class,” he said. “They serve a student body with a wide range of unique challenges, but they embrace the opportunity to inspire a love of learning in incredible ways.

“University of Amarillo was close to my house, incredibly cheap, and I was able to take many very interesting and useful courses, such as business law, which also helped me in our cafe and at the Yale Law School.

“AC is where I developed my love of English. I am forever indebted to AC for my experiences there.

Nancy I. Romero