Joseph Gallardo has gone from being a high school dropout to one of the top students in his class, a mentor to other students at The University of Texas at Austin, and is currently preparing to take the LSAT.
Gallardo, a senior who is majoring in public relations, government and business foundations, was a high school dropout who went back to high school, finally graduating second to last in his class after six years and having attended five different high schools. After a year of working minimum wage jobs, he decided that he wanted to go to college. Though his mother suggested he join the military, he enrolled in Palo Alto College in San Antonio for two years. “It was like learning everything for the first time. I really didn’t learn much in middle school or high school, so it was a real challenge,” Gallardo explained. Despite his difficulties, he was successful at Palo Alto College, serving as captain of the school’s basketball team and ultimately graduating with a 3.94 GPA.
Gallardo felt he had no chance of getting accepted to UT Austin, but with the encouragement of his sister, he applied and arrived on campus in summer 2012, unprepared for how difficult it would be. “I just stepped foot on campus and felt so intimidated; I felt like everyone was a genius,” he said. Due to limited funds, he rode the Megabus back and forth to San Antonio every day just to be able to attend classes. Despite his doubts and travel schedule, Gallardo made As in his classes that summer and has continued his academic success, maintaining a 3.9 GPA through his final semester. “The work is harder, the classes are larger. I think my mindset has helped—just stay focused on doing whatever you need to do to get it done,” he said.
One of the first people Gallardo met on campus was Dallawrence Dean, a student affairs administrator in DDCE’s Longhorn Link Program. Gallardo and a friend happened by the Longhorn Center for Academic Excellence in the Student Services Building one day and stopped in. “All of the services sounded awesome,” he said. Now Gallardo is a Longhorn Link academic success coach and a peer mentor. He mentors 15 students who are struggling in their second year at UT Austin and four additional incoming students to help them get acclimated to the university.
He became interested in a law career after participating in the Intellectual Entrepreneurship Pre-Graduate Internship program, also in the DDCE. “That’s what I love about this university—so many opportunities. You just have to go out and find them,” Gallardo said.
His mentor was second-year law student Siena Magallanes. After attending a few law classes with Magallanes, Gallardo was hooked. He would like to specialize in alternative dispute resolution although he knows he might earn more in other areas of law.
Gallardo currently interns at the Texas State Capitol and recently had a final interview for the Archer Fellowship in Washington, D.C. He also has an internship in public relations and law set up with the San Antonio Spurs upon graduation. However, if selected for the Archer Fellowship, he will postpone the internship until spring and work a year before going to law school in 2015.
“It is so humbling for me to think I have the privilege of helping other Longhorn students as their mentor. I would have never dreamed that was even close to possible,” he said. “Every day I wake up amazed that I’m still here.”