Last year we shared some thoughts and advice from one of our remarkable KIPP alumni. Manny Cabrera, an alum of KIPP Academy in Houston, TX, graduated from law school in May 2015 and was looking forward to the next step in his career. We caught up with Manny this month to hear about his first year as a lawyer. He had lots to share—read on below!
KIPP Houston Class of 2004
College: Hofstra University Class of 2008
Grad School: South Texas College of Law Class of 2015
Current Career: Attorney at Law
Job Title: Associate Attorney at Bush & Ramirez, PLLC
Describe your career path. What opportunities and decisions led you to become the Associate Attorney at Bush & Ramirez?
I am a first-year civil litigation attorney. I defend people and companies that have been sued.
One of the biggest opportunities I have ever had came while I was studying for the bar exam. One day Mike Feinberg emailed me about a federal judge and TFA alumnus on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, who was interested in having a KIPPster intern in his chambers.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is one of 13 federal appellate courts and is only one step below the Supreme Court. I interned for the judge for about four months and one day a friend from law school introduced me to her law firm. They were looking to hire a recent grad.
So without Mike’s email, the internship, and my friend’s connection, who knows where I’d be.
When did you know that you wanted to get into law?
I knew I wanted to go to law school while I was still in college. I was interested in policymaking and politics. Once I got to law school, my goals changed. I became interested in being a litigator. I have a competitive nature and that certainly played a part in it. The reason why I finally decided to become a trial attorney is that I did not want to be powerless. The law will always be a tool for change, but we have to know how to use it effectively.
What are you passionate about in your work?
What I love about litigation is that you have to prove your case or make the other side prove theirs. This is especially important considering that just because you get sued does not mean you did something wrong. And conversely, suing someone does not mean the other person did something wrong either.
What advice would you give college-aged alumni or recent grads?
For college-aged alumni, I would stress to them to make sure that they are considering finances as a factor when they are choosing a college/university. My university was expensive and, as a result, I have student loan debt. However, I could have gotten the same or a similar education at a less expensive school.
As for recent grads, you’re probably not going to find your dream job right out of the gate. And that’s ok. You just have to keep working for it. Make sure that every step you take advances you to your end goal even if it seems small, like taking on an unpaid internship.
What is your favorite KIPP memory? How has your KIPP experience shaped who you are today?
I have so many great memories of KIPP and it’s too difficult to choose just one. I always had a blast doing fraction races while Elvis Presley played in the background in Dan Ceasar’s math class. I very fondly remember Sam Lopez, our history teacher, and knowing he was always serious about making you write lines as punishment if he said “I’m thinking of a number,” meaning the number of lines you had to write. Or there’s the time we helped Dena Garcia, our English teacher, move and afterwards were introduced to Star Wars on LaserDisc!
I cannot imagine what my life would look like today if I had not attended KIPP. I learned that you have to have GANAS (desire). You have to have a desire to succeed. But you also need to work equally hard. What I didn’t know was that KIPP was teaching us “grit.” And when only a small percentage of low-income students attend and graduate from college, grit is exactly what they need.
Anything else you like to share?
For many older KIPPsters like myself, it can sometimes seem like KIPP has changed since we were students there. Some of the teachers and staff we knew are gone and the buildings are different. But I love that at its core, KIPP is still the same. There are still no shortcuts to success.
Looking for more college and career advice? Reach out to Manny on LinkedIn!