When Pete Sabori ('18) first decided to attend law school, he says his family was incredibly supportive, but nervous. He says,
"Like many other first-generation students, I was raised in a low-income family. Prior to law school, I had a job with a decent salary, a retirement account, and health insurance. The prospect of law school meant leaving that job, accruing debt, and forfeiting stability. Law school was a dive into the unknown."
It was a dive Pete was ready to take, after working as a domestic violence victim's advocate and then as a court program coordinator with the Colorado River Indian Tribe's (CRIT) criminal justice system.
"I saw first-hand how lawyers were uniquely situated to address and respond to the needs of crime victims while ensuring due process rights for the accused. I wanted to learn more, and that curiosity led me to law school."
Pete's interest in federal Indian law and criminal law led him to the University of Arizona.
As a first-generation student, he felt a unique sense of freedom in charting his own course, with no pressure to follow in someone else's footsteps.
"I only had my expectations, and I had flexibility. I took classes to meet my certificates and to prep for the bar, but I also took electives that I thought would be interesting."
Pete supplemented his coursework with experiential opportunities, first as a summer intern at the U.S. Department of Justice, Phoenix Criminal Section, and later as a law clerk and student practitioner at the Pascua Yaqui Tribe.
As a law clerk at the Pascua Yaqui Tribe's Office of the Prosecutor, Pete worked on projects related to the tribe's special domestic violence jurisdiction under the 2013 Violence Against Women Act, which authorizes the prosecution of felony domestic violence offenses perpetrated by non-Natives on the reservation.
"It was an incredible opportunity to work with passionate individuals on groundbreaking policy that could have an impact on communities similar to my own."
Pete's paternal grandparents are from Laveen on the Gila River Indian Community, and his maternal grandparents are from the Hopi reservation and Acoma Pueblo.
In the midst of his academic and professional advancement, Pete also faced significant family challenges and loss. As Pete began his first-semester final exams, his father began chemotherapy treatments for cancer. He lost both his grandmothers, his godmother, and uncle while in law school.
Navigating unfamiliar territory while also managing life outside of law school made having a supportive community all the more important for Pete.
"I sought mentorship from individuals who had similar backgrounds, overcame similar challenges and met goals that I aspired to one day meet. From them I learned how to study better, I learned how to write better, and I learned tips for wellness."
Pete joined the Pima County Attorney's Office after graduation. To this day, he maintains relationships with faculty, whose connection to students in and outside the classroom he says is a far cry from the law professors he had previously only seen in movies.
"I am still in contact with a handful of professors, and they continue to respond to any requests for guidance and advice."
He hopes to be able to do the same for other first-generation law students.
"You may not have family in law, but there are plenty of people willing to serve in loco parentis for the limited purpose of mentorship -- and making goofy legal jokes. Find academic resources if you need them, seek mentorship, and build a team of support from your peers."
To current first-generation students, Pete has one final message: Nahongvita! Translated from Hopi: Keep going, you're almost there.