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Attorney finds her passion in immigration law

By Wendy Killeen
Globe Correspondent / May 6, 2012
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Zoila Gomez

Lawrence

Alumna and adjunct faculty

When Zoila Gomez came to the United States from the Dominican Republic in 1988 she didn’t speak any English.

“I always wanted to be an attorney,” she said. “But I wasn’t sure I would be able to do it. It was a different country and a different language.”

After graduating from Lawrence High School in 1989, she enrolled in English as a second language (ESL) classes at Northern Essex Community College.

Her father had a different plan; he wanted her to become a cosmetologist and open her own business. So, after finishing several ESL classes at Northern Essex, Gomez went to hair design school.

“I finished but I didn’t want to get my license and open a salon,” she said. “I wanted to run away from it. I knew I would be stuck for the rest of my life.”

She returned to Northern Essex to take more ESL classes, then enrolled in the paralegal studies program. After graduating in 1997, she transferred to University of Massachusetts Lowell. While there she interned in the office of US Representative Marty Meehan.

She graduated with a degree in political science and joined Meehan’s staff as an aide and immigration caseworker, a position she held for three years.

“I fell in love with immigration law and it became my passion,” Gomez said. “I had found my purpose.”

She earned a degree from the Massachusetts School of Law in Andover and opened her own firm in Lawrence, specializing in immigration law.

Gomez, 41, said Northern Essex was critical in getting her on the right track.

“It was important to have a small school where I felt comfortable and welcomed,” she said. “I was part of the community.”

And, she said, “It was important for me to get A’s and get it right. And that only happened because I used the college’s services and tutoring center and I went to people who could direct me. Northern Essex has a system for you to succeed, whatever field you are in.”

Last year, Gomez returned to Northern Essex as an adjunct faculty member, teaching immigration law.

“It’s a great way for me to give back,” she said.

Wendy Killeen can be reached at wdkilleen@gmail.com.

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