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Saturday, September 30, 2023

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Sandy Fernandez is sworn into The State Bar of California. (Photo courtesy of Sandy Fernandez) Sandy Fernandez is sworn into The State Bar of California. (Photo courtesy of Sandy Fernandez)

SDSU Imperial Valley Alumna Breaks Barriers to Practice Criminal Law

Imperial native, Sandy Fernandez, launched her attorney career attributing to the strong mentorship of SDSU Imperial Valley faculty.
By Daniella Rodiles

As a young high school student, Sandy Fernandez became interested in practicing law after participating in her first mock trial competition. The confidence she embraced as an acting attorney caught the attention of one of the judges, who gave her his business card. 


“Contact me after you complete law school,” he said. Fernandez was hesitant and confused about the comment, as her career choice at the time was medicine. Still, she thanked him and took the card.


Fernandez, an SDSU Imperial Valley alumna, graduated May 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in history with one fundamental goal: to serve her community as a criminal law attorney. 


Earlier this month, she returned to SDSU Imperial Valley to get sworn into The State Bar of California.


“This journey has felt surreal,” said Fernandez. “I could not have accomplished my higher education journey without the support of my family and the mentorship of my professors at SDSU Imperial Valley.”


Staying Local


During her senior year at Imperial High School, Fernandez applied to SDSU Imperial Valley with the help of local counselors during an outreach event. Months later, with graduation around the corner, Fernandez’s mom found her acceptance letter.


Fernandez dove right into her general education classes at Imperial Valley College with the plan to transfer to SDSU Imperial Valley to earn her bachelor’s degree. 


“Many of my peers would constantly think that you would need to move out of Imperial Valley in order to ‘make it,’” said Fernandez. “But I believed that by getting my higher education here, I would receive the same academic and professional support that will help me move forward to law school.”


Fernandez worked two jobs and would later add an internship or two. She often attributes her success to the mentorship of Carlos Herrera, a history professor, and Brett Kofford, English lecturer emeritus, who gave her the professional skills and support needed to enter law school.


“Professor Kofford taught me the importance of finding passions outside of my career and to never stop seeking new experiences and opportunities,” said Fernandez. 


During her undergraduate time, Kofford accompanied Fernandez, along with a group of students, to Ireland and Italy as part of a study abroad program. The experience, she says, opened her eyes to new cultures. 


“Sandy, along with her classmates, was extremely motivated to always keep learning and reach for more,” said Herrera. “Sandy always tried to excel, which impressed me a lot. I tried to convince her to seek a doctorate for her to teach history but her career choice was a testament that she led by example and action.”


Giving Back 

Fernandez eventually went on to earn a Juris Doctorate (JD) degree from Thomas Jefferson School of Law. She now teaches as an adjunct professor at SDSU Imperial Valley and is the newest deputy attorney at the Imperial County District Attorney’s office. 


“My motto was to always ‘raise the bar’ and have a strong work ethic to serve my community,” said Fernandez. “I always advise my students to learn from their mistakes because you can’t be afraid to ask for help. I hope to one day make the same impact on my students and community as my mentors and professors had on me and my academic journey.”