Nathalie Marlene Gonzalez Carrasco
earliest memories is being woken up by her mother before sunrise and taken to her aunt's house so that her mom could head to the agriculture fields to work, returning to pick her up after sunset.
"A lot of my work ethic, I got from my mom," says the University of Arizona Law second-year JD student.
"My mom was not able to finish elementary school because she had to start working at a very young age. For her, me being here is like the best thing in the world. I feel like this is one of the only ways to pay her back for all her sacrifices."
Nathalie is a first-generation law student who says she knew early in her childhood that she would go to college. She told her mother that she had to leave their small town of San Luis, Arizona, in order to grow and be successful.
She enlisted the help of her cousin -- the only person in her family at the time to have attended a university -- to help her fill out college and scholarship applications. Nathalie learned the importance of asking people questions and getting help when she needed it.
"The resources are there, you just need to not be afraid of asking. You have to open the doors for yourself."
Nathalie attended the University of Arizona as an undergraduate on a full scholarship, majoring in political science and Spanish. She took the course "Constitutional Law: Civil Liberties," with Professor Chad Westerland in the School of Government and Public Policy, which inspired her to attend law school.
"His course was life changing because it opened my eyes to how fascinating court cases can be and how your socio-economic status and race affect how you are treated by the court system."
Law school became her goal, with Arizona as her top choice.
"I fell in love with the unique atmosphere that is only offered at the University of Arizona and in Tucson. I could not picture myself at another law school."
Nathalie works on campus at the UA Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid, while staying very involved in College of Law activities. She is treasurer of the Latino Law Student Association, a member of the Law Women's Association, a writing fellow, part of the Arizona Journal of International and Comparative Law, and an extern for UA Athletics.
So far, she has especially enjoyed her two courses with Professor
Toni Massaro, "Constitutional Law" and "Freedom of Speech and Expression," because she likes their historical and philosophical components. Legal writing, with Professors
Carolyn Williams and
Joy Herr-Cardillo ('84), has also been a highlight.
"I enjoyed my legal writing class and it helped me see how well I can perform. Knowing that I can write well reassures me that I belong here. Sometimes you forget."
Nathalie says she has found a supportive community at Arizona Law, where classmates are always willing to help each other and professors are understanding. When things are tough and she needs motivation, she reminds herself why she is here.
"My ultimate goal is to get my mom to stop working in the fields. That type of work doesn't have a retirement plan. Being a first-generation student has given me a fire to become as educated as possible and help use my education by serving others through the law."
Nathalie also wants to mentor other first-generation students and encourage others in her family to pursue higher education.