The path to a legal career starts with high school graduation for two Del Valle High School 12th grade students. Through DVISD’s Legal Studies program Emma Castro and Miles Diggs each received their Paralegal Certification, in what the Center for Legal Studies and the Career and Technical Association of Texas believe are the first such certificates awarded to high school students in the state’s new CTE Legal Studies Program.

“This program demonstrates we are prepared to provide opportunities for students who deserve, and desire, cutting-edge educational opportunities,” said DVHS Teacher Mike Cunningham, “We are bringing well-paying career opportunities to our students, and we are changing how others view the traditional high school.”

The program is funded by a grant from Texas Mutual Workers’ Compensation Insurance through Workforce Solutions Capital Area. The initial cohort of students are supported through collaboration with local businesses, state agencies, higher education institutions, certifying entities, and local school districts. Certifications were earned through The Center for Legal Studies in Dallas.

District partner Gray and Becker, P.C. views the opportunity to collaborate with DVISD as a way to develop career-ready students. Holly Pulido, legal administrator at the firm shared “our goal is to provide these students with high-quality career development in the legal field and encourage life-long learning.”

The opportunity to earn a certification that could qualify the students for jobs directly after high school graduation was one that Emma and Miles could not pass up.

“Though my chosen profession is not a paralegal but a lawyer, I found that the glimpse into a legal office was invaluable,” Emma said, “As a paralegal’s job entails office organization along with research and writing, it allows an extra level of preparedness that cannot be understated.”

For Miles, the district’s program is helping his career plan move on a faster track. “This will help me in the future, by becoming a young black man with an established plan. Oftentimes, young men like myself are delayed in establishing a career,” he shared.

During the pandemic, students attended virtual classes through Huston-Tillotson University for their instruction and training. This was embedded within the DVISD Career and Technical Education Practicum class.

“Huston-Tillotson is happy to advance the professional prospects of Del Valle ISD students through our degree offerings and certificate programs,”  said Nakeenya Wilson, Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Huston-Tillotson. “Our paralegal certificate program offered through the Center for Legal Studies in Dallas, Texas, will assist students in pursuing careers in private and public law offices.”

“This is a truly ground-breaking opportunity for the students, not just in Del Valle, but in Texas,” Del Valle ISD Director of Career and Technical Education Norris Sebastian said, “When we develop partnerships, like the ones in this initiative, we can offer clear pathways to relevant certifications, internships, higher education opportunities, and valued careers.”

Student holding paralegal letter Student holding paralegal letter