For as long as she can remember, Rosie Mendez has always stood up for the underdog. From protecting friends against schoolyard bullies to looking after co-workers laid off from their jobs, Rosie has never been afraid to speak out against abuse or discrimination wherever she has encountered it. After a career working in manufacturing and other professions, her strong sense of justice led her to pursue her lifelong dream of working in the legal field. In December 2011, she was among the graduates of the Paralegal Certificate Program from The University of Texas CIE’s Professional Development Center.
What made you interested in pursuing a career in the legal field?
Rosie Mendez: “That goes back to when I was in high school. It goes back to looking after kids who were being picked on. I thought I used to be shy, but I’ve never had a problem speaking up. That’s something I got from my father. When I was growing up, I wanted to go to college and study law, but I met my husband right out of high school. We got married and life took me in another direction. But then, events occurred that brought me back to that original goal of working in the legal field.”
“Three years ago, I was laid off from a company where I worked for 18 years. It was a Taiwanese-owned company based in Round Rock that manufactured large electronic motors used in steel mills and petroleum facilities. During my 18 years there, I worked my way up from being a clerk to becoming a project manager/contract administrator.”
”When I was laid off, a friend of mine and I started looking around at what kind of jobs were available. We first went to the Department of Labor to find out what programs they offered. What I found was that I could apply for education funds if we could prove that our jobs were eliminated for international business reasons. Since our former company’s products were mostly built overseas, we met this specific criteria and were able to apply for the funds. In fact, we won training funds for 45 of our co-workers who were laid off. With these funds, I was able to go back to school and train to be a paralegal.”
How did you hear about the PDC’s Paralegal Certificate Program?
“I started researching different paralegal programs, and discovered the Paralegal Certificate Program offered by the Professional Development Center at UT Austin. It was always a dream of mine to study at UT. To be able to come to the UT campus and earn this certificate was a great opportunity. What a dream to become a paralegal from a program at The University of Texas at Austin! I was 50 when I started taking the program, and it was a bit overwhelming at first. The terminology and the fast pace were especially challenging. But I jumped in!”
What are your plans for the future?
“Since earning my paralegal certificate, I’ve found some temporary jobs. I’ve enjoyed going to the different law firms and seeing what’s available to me. I’ve had good experiences. I’m about to start a new assignment working for a prominent high tech company. They have a legal forensics department that stores and organizes data for law firms. I’ll be helping with organizing this legal material and I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve been told I will learn a lot.”
What one thing that you learned in the program have you used the most?
“Continue to learn, continue to research. All questions can’t be answered in a single course or a single book. Keep looking. Keep moving forward.”
What would you say to someone who was considering taking the program?
“I would say go online and read about what the program has to offer. PDC has done a wonderful job of describing and representing the program on their website. They offer great program information online. As a consumer, I take written descriptions literally, so if you say a class will include something, I expect it. PDC did exactly what they said they would do. We covered the material that they promised we would.”
“The instructors were really great, especially the tort law and contract law instructors. Since the program ended, I’ve stayed in touch with a lot of the other students. We have created our own Facebook page amongst ourselves to share job-hunting experiences and information.”
“It’s a great start. I’m on to bigger and better things. Being my age, I already have a lot of life and work experience that I think will come in handy in my new profession. It’s never too late. Why not try something new and follow that dream?”