DAYTON, Ohio — Sisters Lizbeth and Tammy Chavez have shared a lot through the years: a bedroom, a family car, the same undergraduate school and a major in social work. Come May 6, they’ll share something else — a University of Dayton law degree.
The Chavez sisters will be among the nearly 100 students receiving their law degrees during commencement exercises that begin 9 a.m. Saturday, May 6, in the University of Dayton Arena. Brad Smith, Microsoft president and chief legal officer, will deliver the commencement address.
“My sister and I have always been best friends,” Lizbeth says. “The best part about law school has been sharing this experience with my sister and working together to achieve our goals.”
Their goals include careers in social advocacy, as well as being voices and counsel for immigrants and Spanish-speaking citizens in need of legal help. And they will do that together, too, in the Ohio attorney general’s office (they received their job offers two minutes apart).
“We grew up in California, where Hispanics were the majority in our community, so we had never experienced discrimination,” Tammy says. “And although we met wonderful people when we first moved to Ohio, we were also faced with vast discrimination. It shaped our paths toward social work and now law.”
Fluent in Spanish, they volunteered at Cincinnati’s Su Casa Hispanic Center as undergraduates. They also traveled to Washington, D.C. with United We Dream, a youth-led organization that advocates for the dignity and fair treatment of immigrant youth and families.
“It was very empowering to travel on a bus packed with people to lobby for student rights, to help undocumented people access education and support the movement toward reform for a path to citizenship for students and their parents,” Tammy says. The experience inspired her to participate in the Dayton Law & Leadership Institute, a program that inspires and prepares high school students to attend college.
The sisters also have volunteered in UD’s law clinic as translators for fellow law students with Spanish-speaking clients, interned or clerked in regional county government, and worked on the University of Dayton Law Review.
“We are very good for each other because whenever she is down, I’m high-spirited,” Tammy says. “When I am down, she brings me up.”
They’re surprised by how fast three years have gone and still laugh about their first visits to Keller Hall. Admission staff thought Tammy had returned for another tour, but it was actually Lizbeth. They aren’t twins, but the resemblance is so strong that fellow students and professors sometimes still mistake one for the other.
Without a doubt, they’d do it again.
“I could not be happier about attending law school together,” Tammy says.