Dawn Yuengel is currently student in the Center's paralegal Online Interactive InstructionTM classes. Students may gain a paralegal education for many reasons. Most assuredly they have an interest in the law or focus on wanting to help people. Some, like Dawn, hope to set an example for their children in the process.
"Mommy, do we have homework tonight?"
There are lots of reasons why attending the Center for Advanced Legal Studies is a wonderful idea, but Dawn Yuengel never anticipated one of the most compelling ones: she and her seven-year-old son get to do homework together.
Being a role model for her two children is important to Dawn. Her son used to think she was the smartest person in the world; then, when he turned seven, he began to question his high opinion of his mother. But he's excited that she's back in school: "now, you'll know everything again," he says. Dawn doesn't really aim to 'know everything,' just enough to get a good job to secure her and her family's future. "My kids are the reason I'm doing what I'm doing; we've had some obstacles, but I can show my kids that you can determine your future if you work hard."
By her own admission, the road to CALS has been tumultuous. Raised in a military family, Dawn spent her childhood on different military bases in America and Germany before settling in Texas. After high school graduation, she went on to college, but she dropped out. She got a job and once the money started coming in it was hard to go back. She married early and then married again, for a while. With no formal education, Dawn felt lucky to get responsible, well-paying jobs in the oil and gas industry.
She tried studying graphic design and even worked as a freelancer for a while. But when the economy imploded, so did Dawn's work. Being an entrepreneur was not Dawn, especially when the income was unstable. She had reached a crossroads. She found herself in her mid 30's, unemployed, no prospects, a single mom with one child and another on the way; soon there would be two sweet young mouths to feed. "Life had kind of stalled," she says. Some changes had to be made. She thought back to what she originally wanted to do in high school and that was to study law.
A number of fortuitous events led to the Center for Advanced Legal Studies. Student aid fell through at one institution; another's schedule was not convenient. Then Dawn remembered the glowing recommendation her cousin's wife, a former teacher at the Center, had given CALS. For Dawn, every door leading to the Center was opening and every door to every other program was closing, so it solidified her decision to go there. And she's thrilled she did.
"I love it; it's been a great experience, challenging, but enjoyable. I feel good about the quality of the education and I love the format - online but interactive." Dawn has met some wonderful peers in the virtual classrooms and they plan to meet in person soon. "We have each other's phone numbers; we text; we call; we're developing real-world relationships just like in a regular college."
Initially, Dawn wanted to go into the legal department of an oil and gas company since that is the industry that she knows best. But her exposure to other aspects of law at the Center for Advanced Legal Studies has piqued her interest in other areas: litigation, tort law, family law. "I want to experience the entire program and see where I fit in," she says.
Right now, she's fitting exactly where she was meant to be. "After lots of twists and turns, I feel like I'm where I belong and I feel like I can be successful now." And at the moment, that means at the kitchen table with a second grader working on homework.
K. Joy Oden, B.A., M.L.A.