The Hispanic National Bar Foundation

Hispanic Community November 2021 PREMIUM
Advancing Latino/x High Schoolers Into College

Written by Jamie Cotera and Aleesha Khan

A love for debate, a passion for writing, and an interest in legal television shows are a few reasons our Hispanic high school students become involved in the Hispanic National Bar Foundation (HNBF) programs. The enthusiasm we see from our students drives us in our mission to empower Hispanics to achieve their full potential through access to higher education, and to increase diversity in the legal profession. But with only 5% of all lawyers identifying as Hispanic (ABA, 2021), we have a long way to go.

Almost half of Hispanic college students are first generation (PNPI, 2021), many of whom enter college without the pivotal navigational capital - defined as students’ skills and abilities to navigate social institutions including educational spaces(Yosso, 2005) - that is often passed down from college-educated parents. Combined with structural barriers like racial discrimination and financial burden, many Hispanic students at even the most prestigious high schools face inequity. HNBF leaders who personally faced these challenges are passionate about solving this issue. Thus, the HNBF created the Future Latino Leaders Summer Law Institute 16 years ago, recognizing a need to mentor the next generation of students who are pursuing college and law school.

This nine-day program in Washington, D.C. provides selected Latinx high school students with the opportunity to learn more about the legal profession. Our students learn about the college application process, meet influential Latinx leaders, and tour national monuments and various government agencies including the Department of Justice, the Department of State, and the Supreme Court. They hear directly from Latinx leaders on a variety of topics including different paths to becoming a lawyer, careers in private and public sectors, and resume building. Each evening, students receive mock trial training and at the end of the week compete in a D.C. courthouse in front of D.C. judges.

Latinx leaders who have been presenters at the Institute are prominent corporate attorneys and litigators at international law firms, government officials from the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice, judges, professors, and current law students.

Students are also assigned a camp counselor who is a current law student. Several Summer Law Institute participants have remained in contact with their counselors and have built a mentorship relationship with them.

Each year, many of our participating students leave the program feeling inspired and having gained insights into a variety of career paths. One student from this past year’s virtual event said, “the Summer Law Institute allowed […] me to understand not only what skills I should be developing as I become a Future Latino Leader, but it granted me the opportunity to have access to mentors that will guide me as I become a leader.”

Based on alumni survey responses, 100% of program participants have graduated high school and gone on to enroll in college. Ninety percent have graduated from college, attending schools including Brown, Dartmouth, Columbia, Cornell, Princeton, Harvard, and Penn and many have also gone on to law school. The Law Institute has proven to be a life-changing experience for our students, putting them on a trajectory for success, no matter what career they choose. The instruction and mentors they gain during the Summer Institute are priceless. Another student said, “hands down, the Summer Law Institute was a life changing experience. I don’t think I would have found what I want to do or pursue for the rest of my life without it.”

Ranging from high school freshmen to seniors, our students come from across the country and the cohorts have a diverse composition.

Students have self-identified as Black-Costa Rican, Colombian-Irish, Cuban-Mexican, Filipino, Ghanaian-Virgin Islander, Hungarian-Argentine-Brazilian-Greek, Mexican-Japanese-Portuguese, Middle Eastern-Arab-Hispanic, Palestinian-Puerto Rican, Peruvian-Italian and Salvadorean-Native American, among many other diverse ethnic descriptions.

Since its founding, the HNBF has encouraged students to expand their educational and professional aspirations by providing them with access to education-career pipeline programs, scholarships, fellowships, and resources to support educational achievement.

The HNBF believes that knowledge and diversity benefit everyone. In order to provide the tools necessary to ensure full and equal opportunity for Hispanics to become leaders in the global community, it facilitates programs that help students reach the highest levels of achievement.

Thus , if you are a Hispanic student, or know of a Hispanic student, who has an interest in working in the legal field, consider participating in the Future Latino Leaders Summer Law Institute. Please contact the HNBF program director at to be added to the application mailing list.


American Bar Association Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession (2021). 2020 ABA Model Diversity Survey

The Postsecondary National Policy Institute (2021). Factsheets - First-Generation Students

Yosso, T.J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? Race, Ethnicity and Education, 8(1), pp. 69–91

About the authors:   Jamie Cotera and Aleesha Khan are the co-executive directors of the HNBF. They are passionate about increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the field of law.

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