By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau
David Salgado became the first college graduate in his extended family last December at Grand Canyon University. In the crowd was his 90-year-old grandfather, Romualdo, who cried.
His parents had pooled resources to get David through college without debt — his father, Rudy, drove a truck while his mother, Jovi, operated a cleaning business. David worked part-time in GCU’s Information Technology Department while taking classes.
“All for one, one for all,” said Jovi, who raises three children north of the GCU campus. “We need to work together as a team, and they need to see we are there for them.”
David had even bigger dreams, inspired by his time at GCU. He wanted to be an attorney. To achieve the next step, law school, he would need determination and faith.
And money. Lots of it. The average law school tuition over three years can reach between $130,000 to $160,000, according to the American Bar Association.
But landing a full scholarship to law school is rare, said Kevin Walling, Chair of Justice Studies, Government and History at GCU.
David waited two months after applying for a scholarship to Gonzaga Law School last spring before getting the email.
“Don’t worry, we will get through it,” Jovi remembers saying. “Maybe that means we have to rearrange our budget.”
“So we canceled our vacation.”
David said, “I didn’t know what I was going to do. I just put it up to God, praying about it.”
He had done what he could so far despite not “coming from a lot of money.”
He found GCU, surprised to learn of the curriculum designed by Walling that combined government with legal studies to emphasize preparation for law school. Walling said his program also utilizes faculty with “real world experience” and encourages the same for his students via internships.
What Walling noticed is a quiet young man, sitting in the back of class.
“He is quiet, but his wheels are turning,” Walling said. “I think of it as biding his time and then asking a really good question of me.”
Salgado said he thrived in GCU’s community-focused environment. He joined the mock trial team and secured an internship at Superior Court in Phoenix. He said his character also was shaped by community outreach. In his volunteer work in and around campus and at his church, he learned that the people at the food bank were not just stereotypical homeless men but people from all backgrounds, even college kids, who were broke.
He also used his Spanish-speaking skills to assist with legal terms. “It was my job to help them in any way I could.”
But after his graduation, he was stuck. For three months, he didn’t know what he would do. He decided to go back to GCU’s IT Department as an employee. The itch to practice law continued, drawn to how it “shapes society, who we are as a people. And I’m people oriented. I love to help people.”
First, he needed to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), a much feared exam required to apply for law school admission.
He remembered Walling’s advice.
“There’s a presumption the test will all be about the law. False,” said Walling. “It’s a test of comprehension and logic.”
Salgado said it was mentally draining to prepare for it. He did several practice tests every weekend until he sat down for it in July 2018. He did well, plenty good enough to pump out three law school applications.
“I got three nos. Each one hurt more than the last one,” he said. “That really took a toll.”
In February, he got a call from Gonzaga School of Law. They not only wanted him to attend its law school but to apply for the Thomas More Scholarship, a full ride. The hitch was it was due the next day.
At 8 p.m. while writing an essay, he called teachers and others for letters of recommendation, due to him at midnight. He scrambled but got it done, then waited for two months.
Prayers, canceled vacations, all kinds of second-guessing followed.
But just weeks later, there was a surprise. After reconsidering, Gonzaga wanted another interview with Salgado for the Thomas More Scholarship.
“Then on April 29 – I still have the date in my head,” said Jovi Salgado, “David calls to tell me he has a scholarship.”
“I was jumping up and down for joy.”
He earned the rare full ride to law school and wants to use it to one day practice law with a focus on data or intellectual property.
Every time David doubted himself, Walling told him he would get there. Every time he didn’t think he could afford it, his parents told him they were behind him, just as they are for sister Diane, who is now going to GCU, too.
“One day,” Jovi Salgado said, “he will turn around and help pull his sister through medical school.”
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at email@example.com or at 602-639-6764.