UTSA graduate to lead Texas Young Lawyers Association

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Commitment and hard work can shorten the road to success. This adage applies to UTSA alumnus, Sylvia Cardona, who was recently elected as president of the Texas Young Lawyers Association (TYLA). Cardona graduated in 1998 with a double major in political science and Mexican-American studies, a new major at the time. “I decided to prolong my graduation an extra year so that I could fulfill the double major requirements in both areas,” Cardona said. While at UTSA, Cardona spent most of her time working at a law firm as a legal assistant spending only Tuesdays and Thursdays on campus. Cardona said one of the best things about going to UTSA was the wide variety of classes offered at different times throughout the day. “People that do have to work during the day can find a way to still go to school simultaneously,” she said. Though she spent most of her time off campus, Cardona regretted not having an opportunity to be involved in more on-campus activities. She did make it a point to become involved with the political groups on campus whenever possible. When it came time for Cardona to apply to law school, she found her relationships with the professors at UTSA to be her main support. “Richard Gambitta was very involved with the Mexican American studies group and was very helpful in trying to encourage Latino students to go on and get a postgraduate degree.” After completing her law degree at Oklahoma University, Cardona took the Texas Bar Exam and moved to Washington, D.C. for her graduate work. At Georgetown, Cardona received a Master of Laws, where she specialized in international and comparative law. At Georgetown, Cardona worked with one of her professors doing research, writing and working with international environmental law. Through her professor, she was given the opportunity to write for the World Bank Inspection Panel where she assisted with the 10th year publication. In 2003, Cardona moved back to San Antonio and began her career with Langley and Banack, INC., a full-service law firm where she deals with commercial litigation and international law. Shortly after returning, she became in involved with the San Antonio Young Lawyers Association (SAYLA), where she held a director position for a year. After, she joined the TYLA. “My path to president elect was pretty quick. Usually the people that get nominated to run for president elect have been in TYLA for a little bit longer,” Cardona said. “Due to my great commitment to the organization and all the work that I’ve done in a short period of time, the nomination committee felt comfortable nominating me as one of the candidates to run.” According to Cardona, the TYLA is the service arm of the State Bar in Texas. Each year, the TYLA identifies a need in the community and then coordinates a program to help. Cardona believes every lawyer has a responsibility to represent individuals who don’t have resources to hire someone to represent them. “Pro Bono is somewhat of an obligation to some extent,” she said. The TYLA provides an outlet for this Pro Bono work. One of the main reasons Cardona joined the TYLA was for the activities they do for at-risk kids. “We do a lot of projects that focus on at-risk kids and pushing forward the idea that they too can go on and get an education,” she said. The TYLA program also works with children to help them move up to the same playing field as other students. Cardona grew up with parents who were migrant workers and didn’t have a high education level. “Not that the children are at a disadvantage, they just don’t have the same resources available,” she said. This year the TYLA is producing a video to let young, inexperienced workers in the work force know their rights. The tentative title is “My first job, know your rights.” Cardona has advice for students at UTSA. “It takes long hours, dedication, optimism and several other factors to be successful,” she said. She advises students to do all they can right now and not waste their college career. “Grades do make a difference, especially if they want to go on to a postgraduate program,” she said. Cardona encourages students to participate in campus organizations and get to know college professors. When it comes time to apply to graduate school, which she believes is essential, your professors will be invaluable. Volunteering during college will also make a student’s résumé stand out. Incorporating community service into their life reveals a different type of character and will open many doors for students. Finally, when choosing a career in life, look at all the options, don’t just choose a job based on salary. Find one that will let you have the quality of life that you desire. Sylvia says she got very lucky here. “Our law firm has been extremely helpful and motivating and encouraging and flexible with me, because they’re allowing me to take on the huge responsibility of President elect, which means I won’t work as much.”