Scholarship Essay

2021 Esfandi Law Scholarship Essay #1

To Unearth Truth, Remember My Roots

by Thao “Annie” Le

It was May 2018. Sounds of gavel called meeting to order. Although the boardroom was big, I didn’t feel small. Going by the name “Annie,” I was the only female candidate to be the next UCI Student Body President, debating an all-male group of candidates, while still juggling school and my three part-time jobs. “Annie, congratulations!” Two words changed my life.

I was a 19-year-old college sophomore with prior jobs of $10.50 /hour, never thought I could be in an elected office, planning a $2.5 Million budget. The student body had spoken, believing in me before I fully realized my potentials. I was given the honor of a lifetime, to represent over 29,700 UCI undergraduates. I went on lobbying for 7 bills that passed into California law, focusing on affordable higher education, mental health, and basic needs security like food and housing.

This aspiration to help others stemmed from various aspects of my life.

I’m a first-generation student in the United States, the only child of single mom – a five-foot woman who’s fast on her feet and fearless in her decisions. When I was 12, we became immigrants from Vietnam to the United States, after surviving domestic violence and my parents’ messy divorce. The language barrier, culture shock and lack of connections limited options of how to make ends meet. From working in dining services, cosmetology, to senior care, my mother’s got guts. In 2011, we lived in someone’s garage as new immigrants. Our lives have come a long way since then.

Last June 2020, I earned my B.A. in Criminology, Law and Society from UC Irvine, with the help of President’s Work-Study, Cal Grant A, Federal Pell Grant, local scholarships, and mentorship. Before graduation, I paid it forward by volunteering to teach ninth-graders at the UCI Saturday Academy of Law, empowering the next generation to pursue higher education through our shared background: low-income, English-language learners, first-generation, underrepresented in the legal field. Class meetings included lessons on Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier and Tinker v. Des Moines. The common theme urged students to understand the power of knowing our rights and speaking up.

After graduating into a pandemic, I’ve taken a gap year, interning at the Mellen Law Firm in Alameda, CA. Though the law firm specializes in saving homes from predatory lending and foreclosure, we have also dealt with elder abuse and civil harassment, highlighting the intersectionality of social issues. There’s still much more to be done. Now, here I am, getting ready to continue my education at the University of San Francisco School of Law this Fall, hoping to pursue public interest law.

Only 2% of U.S. lawyers are Asians, according to the ABA 2020 Profile of the Legal Profession. Change requires stronger laws and policies, with court decisions reflecting the community’s values. There’s no doubt that the financial assistance of the Seppi Esfandi Law Scholarship would help tremendously in providing stability in my adjustment to the rigorous demand of legal education, while allowing me to focus on community-building in a new city.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

AUTHOR: Thao “Annie” Le
SCHOOL: University of San Francisco School of Law

Best of Luck to All Students Who Participated

Thanks to everyone who sent in essays. There were several good ones and the selection process was not easy.

Seppi Esfandi is an expert in Criminal Law who has over 20 years of practice defending a variety of criminal cases.

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R. Hodges
June 02, 2020
Seppi was so kind and professional. He made me feel at ease and took care of all my concerns. So grateful for him and his team!

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