Intermountain Healthcare, Kirton McConkie, and the Utah Center for Legal Inclusion (UCLI), have collaborated to create the Legal Inclusion Fellowship, providing students at Utah law schools the unique opportunity for a paid summer internship and a substantial scholarship. The Fellowship is open to students at Brigham Young University J. Reuben Clark Law School and the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law. In 2022, the fellowship was granted to one law student, KC (Keigo) Decker at the J. Reuben Clark Law School at BYU. The fellowship plays a significant role in UCLI’s efforts to empower students from historically underrepresented groups to thrive in the legal profession by developing professional skills, exploring career options, and receiving financial support.
KC is a first-generation, bi-racial Japanese American law student. KC was born and raised in Japan and moved to Utah when he was in grade school. During his first several years living in the United States, KC remembers struggling to adjust to a different culture and language, while his parents struggled to provide. “The transition was hard on everyone. I struggled to keep up with peers in school while my parents worked multiple jobs to stabilize our new place in the world. Though my parents undoubtedly worked hard, economic stability continually proved elusive. With no college education, little substantive career experience, and no financial savings, my family constantly fought an uphill battle.”
Although education was not a strong emphasis in his home growing up, KC developed a deep love of learning from passionate and encouraging public school educators. With this foundation, KC went on to study at BYU where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in European Studies and Russian. This course of study was motivated by his experience as a church missionary living in Eastern Europe. “I met with hundreds of people who were caught in all too familiar circumstances. As I listened to them share the stories of their own families, I recognized the familiar pattern of navigating life without an education, jumping from job to job, and borrowing money to maintain spending habits.” KC explains, “I began to comprehend the pervasive consequences of this pattern, and that if I wanted something different for my future, I was going to need to break the cycle and formal education would be the key.” As a first-generation college graduate, KC has a deep appreciation for how formal education increases awareness and equips people with tools to create change.
KC is currently a rising 2L at BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School. As a UCLI fellow, he hopes to hone skills in the law to help others avoid some of the challenges he has encountered. “The UCLI fellowship has allowed me to learn practical legal skills and better navigate the law. As I’ve studied and worked in the law, it is no wonder to me why many people fall victim to prejudiced legal structures and economic hurdles. The law is extremely complicated and not intended to be understood by the layperson, and access to legal resources costs a substantial amount of money. This naturally leaves immigrants and those without a formal education disadvantaged.”
For KC, the fellowship is an opportunity to pave a new narrative; one with greater stability for himself and his family. As he continues to build out his legal practice, KC hopes to become a mentor and example to others, proving that multi-generational precedent is not an indication of one’s future. To others who come from similar backgrounds, KC says, “You can create a better future if you desire it and know where to look. Often, you will only know where to look if you have someone to show you and guide you. UCLI, in partnership with Kirton McConkie and Intermountain Healthcare, was that someone for me. I plan to pay this opportunity forward by helping future law students navigate their journey.”