Growing up in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, Jairo Villalobos never would have thought he’d graduate from Yale University – but that’s just what he did. Now in his first semester of law school at the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, Jairo still looks at his time at Daley College one of the smartest moves he made.

After he graduated from Curie High School in 2007, Jairo didn’t know exactly what he wanted to study, but he did know that he didn’t want to go into debt while he figured it out. While many of his friends went directly to four-year universities, Jairo felt community college was the right fit for him. It allowed him to work part-time to pay for his studies and take courses that helped him figure out his next step.

“I am the oldest of four boys and my parents didn’t go to college, so I didn’t have a road map to follow,” he said.

As he found his way, Jairo became part of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, and eventually the valediction of Daley’s graduating class in 2010. When it came time to apply to transfer, he did all the research he could, talked to friends who had already gone through the process, and tapped into the knowledge of Daley professor and mentor, Dr. Rowena Misayah. His hard work paid off when he was accepted to Yale University with a full-ride scholarship.

Thanks to his example, two of his three brothers have also earned associate degrees from Daley, and the youngest, who is still in high school, could very well follow in his footsteps.

Once he graduated from Yale, Jairo returned to Chicago and worked for the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights for four years, initially providing legal case support and ultimately becoming Operations Manager for eight offices across five states. With an interest in law, Jairo decided to continue his education and head to law school at Washington University.

He’s still figuring out his next step, but thinks he would like to start his law career in corporate law to hone his skills, network, and establish himself in the field, but still work on the issues he cares about.

“I want to do something impactful with my education, and I definitely want to come back to Chicago if I can. My family is here and I love this city,” he said.

We can’t wait to see what Jairo does next.

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