Sherri Dutra-Brinson is a graduate of MTI College’s Paralegal Studies program. She attended the two year program, graduating in October, 2016. Sherri is a California native, having lived in the Bay Area most of her life. She migrated a little northeast to the Sacramento area in the ’80s to raise her family. Once her children became older, Sherri started to pursue a lifelong goal – her education. “One thing I have always wanted for myself is to have something to call a career,” she passionately explained. For her entire life, she has been working in the service industry in some capacity. She has worked in retail, grocery stores and restaurants. She has worked incredibly hard to take care of her family. However, there finally came a point in her life when she was able to focus on what she wanted, and what she wanted was a Monday-through-Friday career. She has worked nights, weekends and holidays her whole life. It was time for a change.
Sherri had passed MTI College for years. She knew there were various medical programs but did not realize they also offered business-related programs as well, until one random day when she saw it on the marquee. It immediately sparked her interest. “I just walked in. I was a walk-in off the street.” That day, Sherri was able to do an intake meeting with one of the administrators there. In that meeting, she was asked some very specific questions to help her figure out what she wanted for herself. Sherri could not contain her excitement as she told the story of that day. “I went to MTI thinking I would sign up for a business or accounting program, only to discover through a Q&A intake, would I consider paralegal? The feeling I got when she offered that information was exciting. I went home and thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, I want to be a paralegal’ and signed up the next day.”
Sherri would soon find out that her excitement for the paralegal program was only going to grow. “What I can tell you is that if you are willing to put in the effort, they are right there with you. Anything you don’t understand, they go above and beyond to help you be successful. All the instructors are really committed to your learning process.” One thing Sherri was very impressed by was that every class was designed to elevate you to the next level of academics. When she started the program and saw requirements such as algebra and statistics, she became overwhelmed with the thought of having been out of school for a very long time. She questioned how she was going to be able to pass these classes. Nevertheless, when it was time to take those classes, Sherri had already taken four math courses to prepare her. The statistics course actually ended up being rewarding. Although still not easy, she successfully passed the course. It was the same situation with Microsoft Word and Excel. Sherri explained that for her younger counterparts a course like that may have been redundant. Yet, for her, being able to first learn more about Microsoft Word and Excel is what set her up for success. She was also able to take advantage of the labs that were offered for extra help for every class. She had to put in extra effort, but it paid off. As Sherri explained, “Time and time again, I found that even though I may not understand in this moment, with determination and perseverance I was going to get there. And I continuously did throughout the whole process.”
As Sherri continued to reflect on her experience at MTI College, she started to get emotional. She told the story of her first day. It was simple introductions and the overview of the course syllabus and Sherri was excited. She thought to herself, “I’m in college now; this is going to be fun.” Well, the next day was her first real day of the computer concepts course. It was a basic introduction course, but as Sherri explained, she came from an era of not being exposed to computers. “My understanding and comprehension of it was incredibly limited. The words coming out of the instructor’s mouth were truly foreign to me. My response in that moment was sitting in my chair and crying in class.” She kept thinking to herself how she was going to pass the course and wondered if she should just go to the bathroom and hide out. She did not want to miss out, though, so she just sat there and cried. The instructor kept looking at her, wondering if she was okay. As tears of gratitude continued to roll down, Sherri gratefully expressed, “I told her, ‘I don’t see how this is going to work.’ She said, ‘I assure you, if you attend every lab and stay committed, you are going to conquer and you are going to prevail.’ I got an ‘A’ in the class.” Sherri was such a shining star throughout the program; she was chosen to be the speaker at graduation and earned the Outstanding Graduate award.
Sherri’s hard work and dedication have paid off, as she currently works at a law firm. Her department handles Social Security disability claims for clients. “I absolutely love, love my job. I am blessed and honored to be working for an attorney who has been practicing for 37 years, who has dedicated his life to this area of law.” In Sherri’s role, she is responsible for client intakes and signing clients up for services. She is able to share with people the value of navigating the problem for them while they do what they need to in order to sustain themselves. For Sherri, it is a win-win situation. She loves being able to help people and work for passionate, dedicated people. And now, not only does she get holidays off, she actually gets paid on holidays. Her dream has officially come true.
When asked about her future plans, Sherri explained that there are so many different levels for advancement at her firm. “It starts at intake, but then there’s applications, then reconsideration, repeals case manager, claim representatives.” A claims representative must be certified to appear in court on a client’s behalf. Paralegals may represent a client in an Administrative law hearing, if they are properly certified. My goal is to appear in court representing clients.” She has it figured out, and there is no doubt she will continue to grow and make a positive impact. Sherri is an incredibly motivated and inspirational individual. When asked what advice she had for MTI College students, Sherri did not hesitate. “What I would say is just when you think you can’t, do it anyway. Perseverance pays off 100% of the time. If you give up, you don’t have a chance anymore. Show up; you will figure it out. But you have to show up.”