1. Loyalty to friends led her back to law school.
"After I left Brazil, where I had been a journalist and an attorney, I lost my identity. I couldn’t be a TV journalist anymore because of my accent, and I couldn’t practice law because my license wasn’t valid in Wisconsin.
"Then I met Jason Smith from UW Law’s graduate program. I had come to the Law School to learn about resources to help legalize my friends, who are unauthorized migrants. But Jason has such a can-do attitude. He really made me believe that, not only should I look for an answer for my friends, but I should return to law school. He showed me all of the paths: what I needed to do to apply, and what I could do once I was enrolled. The day I figured out I could go back to law school and be an attorney in Wisconsin … that was a great day."
Shirasaki addressed her classmates at her
UW Law School commencement.
2. She had a supreme day with a famous judge.
"Before Justice Sonia Sotomayor visited our law school last fall, I knew of this intelligent, perseverant and amazing Latina that became a Supreme Court Justice. After her visit, I also see a very compassionate human, a woman that loves the law, deeply cares about her community, volunteers at local schools, and really believes in inspiring and mentoring new generations. I hope the souvenir terrace chair I handed her that day will remind her of the beautiful Madison sunset we had for her visit."
3. She’s upholding the family honor.
"I had to cut back my hours in my wedding photography business a lot to make time for law school. My husband picked up extra work hours to make up the difference. Now he leaves the house at 7:30 in the morning and comes home at 9:30 at night. And my father, he never had new cars. He never took big vacations. He always invested his money on his kids to learn English, to go to private schools, to get us the best education he could afford. In the hard moments, I always think that I must finish my degree to make my kids proud and inspire them to go to college, but especially to honor my dad and my husband, who have both made extreme sacrifices for my education."
Shirasaki hopes to inspire her
children to attend college.
4. When it comes to protecting children, she dreams big.
"Studies on migrant children in deportation proceedings show that, of the children who had an attorney, only about 10% were deported, but 80% of the children who didn’t have an attorney were deported. I learned this while I was working toward my master of laws degree here, when I participated in the Immigrant Justice Clinic. My IJC experience inspired my five-year research project on how the legal system treats migrant children. Now I’m hoping to transition into the Law School's doctoral program—and I have this big dream of becoming a law professor in a clinical setting and starting a humanitarian immigration clinic for children. That is my really big dream."
5. Every day, she gets up to win.
"Back in law school in Brazil, my pro bono coordinator taught me a sentence that still means a lot to me: ‘Todos os dias eu me levanto para vencer.’ Its literal translation is ‘Every day, I get up to win.’ But in Portuguese, ‘to win’ also means ‘to overcome obstacles’ and ‘to make this the best day.’
"When I wake up in the morning, the first thought that pops into my head is all the things I have to do that day — I have to bring snacks to my kids’ school, make sure they finished their projects, prepare to teach my tutoring session, work on my research. My second or third thought is ‘Every day I get up to win.’ It might sound silly, but it’s really helped me."
Submitted by Tammy Kempfert on March 10, 2017