“I was so focused on my dreams, on my goals, on my desire to provide for my family. The life that they deserved that I lost sight of what truly matters. And it was them, the people…the journey…the moment,” Judge Pamela Peynado (J.D. ’14) shared with the Georgia State University College of Law Class of 2023.
Shortly after Judge Peynado graduated from Georgia State University College of Law in 2014, she lost her grandmother to dementia and her mother was diagnosed with cancer.
Judge Peynado served as the commencement speaker for the College of Law’s Spring Commencement and Hooding Ceremony on Friday, May 12, 2023.
She touched on several life lessons throughout her speech – but there was one consistent point that she made clear: never lose sight of what truly matters.
Peynado is a Judge Pro Hac Vice for the Municipal Court of Atlanta and a partner at Lee & Peynado Immigration Law Group, and she knows firsthand the weight of having big dreams. As a native of the Dominican Republic, her family arrived in America determined to change their lives for the better.
“I said I’m going to learn everything there is to know about immigration law. I’m going to help my people. I chose passion, and I’m so glad I did,” Peynado explained.
But she also understands the importance of enjoying the journey to reach those dreams. Her mentors taught her to “refuse to be denied,” a quote that resonated when she received a rejection letter from Georgia State Law but eventually appealed the decision – an action that was foreign to her.
“I remember my cover letter saying something along the lines of ‘Dear Dr. Jester-George, Thank you for your decision. I am sorry to inform you that I do not accept your rejection, and here’s why,” she joked with the crowd.
Peynado was eventually accepted as “the last draft pick of the class of 2011,” she exclaimed.
“I made the team. And I’m now in front of you to tell you that your determination determines your outcome. That you must refuse to be denied,” Peynado said with pride.
Peynado wanted the Class of 2023 to know that no matter how hard it gets, it’s their resilience that will continue to drive them.
Her advice contained a direct correlation with student leader Kierra Powell’s message. Powell, the 2022-2023 Student Bar Association president encouraged her peers to make their mark in the legal field.
“Our worth is not defined by such arbitrary labels. Instead, our worth lies, in part, in the work that we’ve done and will do within our communities and practice areas … We can make people feel seen and heard, we can use our tools to act, and we can change other people’s lives…,” she said.
As Powell and her classmates prepare to embark on an exciting journey to change lives, they do so with pride and distinction. The Class of 2023 includes 191 Juris Doctor graduates and 18 LL.M. graduates. Seventy-nine of those students graduated with honors. The college also recognized 30 students who completed 50 or more hours of public service and pro bono work.
“It is admirable that so many of our students dedicated their time without receiving payment or academic credit,” said Courtney Anderson, associate dean of academic affairs and associate professor of law.
The Class of 2023 is a unique class. They weathered the pandemic and managed to withstand limitations and tragedy. A posthumous degree was given to the family of Alex Patafio, a student leader at the College of Law who passed away on October 7, 2022. The Class of 2023 raised more than $42,000 for the annual Class Gift Campaign to endow a scholarship in Patafio’s honor.
-Written by Maya Carpenter