Class of 2021: Luci Harris hopes to help immigrants navigate the U.S. immigration system
December 2, 2021
Luci Harris is working toward her goal of becoming an immigration lawyer so she can help immigrants access the U.S. legal system.
“The immigration system is incredibly complicated and can be very traumatic for the individuals who go through it. I hope to be able to use my Spanish skills and cultural competencies to make that process an easier one for immigrants in Virginia as an attorney,” said Harris, who is graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University in December with a dual bachelor’s degree in international studies with a concentration in Latin America and foreign language with a concentration in Spanish.
Harris is graduating from the School of World Studies in the College of Humanities and Sciences only two and half years after enrolling at the university thanks to 50 credit hours she accumulated via AP credit in high school plus 15 credits total over two summers at VCU and 18 credit hours every semester.
She became proficient in Spanish after living in Mexico for two years as a child. Harris also attended a Spanish immersion program in school in Arlington, Virginia, where she has lived for most of her life.
“During elementary school, the entire school was Spanish immersion. In middle and high school, the Spanish immersion program was housed within schools that were mainly standard high school,” she said. “Half of my classes were in Spanish. I never had a science class taught in English until the 10th grade. I was very fortunate to go through that program and have that opportunity.”
Harris had varied interests in high school that included a strong involvement in theater.
“I originally came to VCU as a stage management and international studies major, focusing on the intersection of politics and theater in my work and research,” she said. “However, once I was actually here, I felt more pulled by my international studies major, and wanted to focus more on that, and the related fields of Spanish and political science.”
Along with her classes, Harris tutors VCU student-athletes in Spanish and government. Anita Nadal, an assistant professor of Spanish in the School of World Studies, has been one of Harris’ role models at VCU.
“Her guidance in service learning allowed me to work directly with Latino communities in Richmond,” Harris said. “I took a service learning class that involved volunteer work in the community, where I was able to volunteer at cultural events that highlighted Puerto Rican culture in Richmond. She also encouraged me to pursue opportunities in my own community at home.”
Harris also learned more about the experiences of recently arrived immigrants in Richmond. And this summer, as a Baldacci Student Experiential Learning Fund grant recipient, she spent three months working as a legal intern with Ayuda, a nonprofit in Northern Virginia that provides legal, social and language services to help low-income immigrants.
The Baldacci grants were created from a gift made to VCU in 2017 by best-selling author and VCU graduate David Baldacci and his wife, Michelle. Grants are awarded to academically promising, and hardworking rising juniors and seniors of diverse areas of study and backgrounds.
“I worked directly with clients, drafting forms and affidavits for visas, work permits, asylum and special immigrant juveniles,” Harris said of her internship. “It was a crucial experience that helped to solidify my decision to pursue law school.”
She hopes her background and VCU education will help her continue to do work in her community after she earns a law degree.
“I look forward to working as an attorney so that I can help individuals feel recognized and heard within the legal system,” she said.