The Alex Acosta I Know

03/16/2017 08:57 am ET
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As the senate considers the nomination of Alex Acosta, his record will undoubtedly be scrutinized hundreds of times. I wanted to share some insights into the Alex Acosta that I know.

Dean Acosta is more than a dean for law students. Throughout his tenure, he has been like a father, mentor, and friend for students, and his deep passion for the law, labor, and education has helped the students he has counseled throughout his career.

I met Dean Acosta when I was working at a restaurant as a server. Having come from Cuba six years before without any family, what sustained me was my belief in the American dream, which I hoped to achieve by becoming an attorney in the United States. After a brief introduction, our conversation quickly took a deeper turn once I told him that I was studying for the LSAT. As he took the time to explain the law school application process to me, it immediately became clear that he was experienced and knowledgeable and, as our conversation progressed, I was not surprised to learn that my patron was a law school dean. However, my biggest takeaway was that this was not just someone well versed in the law ― this was someone who really cared about the well-being of others.

With his counsel as a guide, I was admitted to the law school at St. Thomas University. Despite not being his student, Dean Acosta and I kept in touch. My dream was to go to law school at Florida International University College of Law where he was the dean, but due in large part to a language barrier, I did not have the grades required to successfully transfer to FIU Law. Before my second semester started, I requested a meeting with him to discuss my desire to transfer to FIU Law and seek his counsel as to how I could make the necessary improvements needed to succeed. Without hesitation, Dean Acosta jumped into action and set in motion a plan to help me improve my grades, including making a call to the dean in charge of academics at FIU Law for his advice for my upcoming exams at St. Thomas.

Thanks to Dean Acosta’s quick actions and good judgment to seek counsel from his peers to help me implement the best plan possible, my grades improved and I transferred to FIU Law. After I had made the move, Dean Acosta made time to meet with me every two weeks where I could seek his advice about law school, career opportunities, and even personal matters. He always took the time to listen and answer questions, but perhaps most importantly, Dean Acosta provided me with sound counsel that helped me succeed.

As dean, one of his best qualities was his willingness to connect students to attorneys, judges, and others. I shared with him another tenet of my American dream: my desire to learn more about my new home by interning in Congress. I understood that Congressional internships are prestigious and hard to come by, but that if anyone knew how I could accomplish this, it would be him since he had spent years in Washington serving in the Justice Department and on the National Labor Relations Board.

Once again, just moments after sharing this with him, he introduced me to someone who quickly interviewed me and got me an internship. Dean Acosta knew that I was willing to work hard to achieve success, and he believed in me. Yet, my case is not unique; I know of many law students whose dreams have been made a reality thanks in large part to Dean Acosta’s mentorship.

His nomination is bittersweet not only because of the personal success so many of us have achieved under his tutelage but also because of the great work that he has done to improve FIU Law’s standing as a leading law school. In only ten years he turned FIU Law into one of the top and most competitive schools in the country.

However, it made me truly happy to learn that someone so invested in the success of others will help guide our country. I believe that his commitment to improving the lives and future of his law students will translate to his service as Secretary of Labor and, upon his confirmation, it will successfully guide him as he makes recommendations and implements policies that affect America’s workforce. His passion, intelligence, and persistence will bring a great contribution to this administration.

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