UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Current Penn State Law student Victoria Crynes, along with her family, has established the Sanchez-Crynes Visionary Legacy Endowed Scholarship at Penn State Law. The endowment will benefit first-generation law students in their second or third year of law school who are interested in corporate law, who are members of the Latinx Law Student Association and who are committed to serving the Hispanic community.
Crynes, a first-generation Hispanic law student in her third year at Penn State Law, said, “The scholarship is for first-generation students who frequently face tremendous challenges from getting to law school, paying for their education, and even understanding the pathway to become a lawyer.”
The average law student has $165,000 in educational debt. The mission of the Sanchez-Crynes Visionary Legacy Endowed Scholarship is to achieve equity and representation of Hispanic and underrepresented communities in the legal profession by helping make a law degree more financially attainable.
Hispanics, the fastest growing population in the U.S., account for only 5% of the 1.3 million lawyers in the country—despite the U.S. Hispanic population being 62.1 million people according to the U.S. 2021 Census data. Crynes aims for this endowment to take a step forward in bridging that gap. “Ideally, the legal profession should reflect the diversity of U.S. citizens—the communities it is designed to serve. Increasing the number of Hispanic attorneys is crucial for establishing a profession reflective of our diverse society while also creating a pipeline for more diverse judges,” she said.
The Sanchez-Crynes Visionary Legacy Endowed Scholarship Fund is named in honor of Crynes’ two grandfathers, Manuel T. Sanchez and Dr. Billy Crynes, who both dedicated their lives to empowering students from communities historically underrepresented in higher education.
Sanchez, Crynes’ maternal grandfather, volunteered for over 40 years helping countless high school students at Frederick A. Douglass High School in Oklahoma City, the first historically African-American high school in Oklahoma. He served student-athletes by helping them pursue athletic scholarships, volunteering as an assistant baseball coach, securing funds for equipment and uniforms and creating the first baseball league in Oklahoma for undocumented Hispanic immigrants.
“He dedicated his life to those in need, continually prompting others to give back to the community. He is a legend in the community known as Papa Sanchez to some and Coach Sanchez to others,” said Crynes.
Crynes credits her Grandpa Sanchez with teaching her that you can always find a way to make a difference. “I was raised to see how I could help others. When you see a need, you meet the need. You’re never too young to give back to the community.”
Her paternal grandfather, Dr. Crynes, was a first-generation college student and former dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Oklahoma. As dean, he invested in the Multicultural Engineering Program and advocated to expand the staff and further develop the program in the early 2000s. The program grew into a leading engineering program that included over 500 students from historically underrepresented communities and ranks in the top three U.S. engineering programs for diversity, with many graduates becoming successful leaders in their respective fields.
“The legacy of my grandfathers shows that providing students with resources, mentorship, and comprehensive support-systems creates leaders. Carrying on their legacy, I aspire to empower first-generation law students. I believe this is critical for the future success of our nation,” said Crynes.
Crynes is an example of the positive impact of scholarships and diversity pipeline programs. Participating in the Hispanic National Bar Foundation Future Latino Leaders Summer Law Institute after her sophomore year of high school, her dream of becoming an attorney emerged. Nearly a decade later, Crynes received a full tuition scholarship at Penn State Law. Because of this funding, Crynes was able to devote her time to studies and campus engagement which led to her connecting with Penn State Law alumni.
Two of those connections led to her applying and being selected as a Skadden, Arps 1L Scholar in the Wilmington, Delaware, office. Skadden, a multinational law firm, offers the 1L Scholars Program to diverse first year law students to increase inclusivity in law while providing Scholars with premiere career development opportunities. Last fall, Crynes received the newly created Skadden 1L Scholars’ scholarship. Crynes chose to donate her scholarship money to establish the Sanchez-Crynes Visionary Legacy Endowed Scholarship.
“I realized the ability to impact Hispanic students for generations to come, simply by committing my scholarship money to an endowment,” said Crynes. “Penn State Law’s full tuition scholarship and Skadden’s decision to invest in their 1L Summer Scholars provided me the financial empowerment to partner with Penn State Law to increase diversity in the legal profession.”
Vice Admiral (Ret.) James W. Houck, interim dean of Penn State Law and the School of International Affairs, said, “It’s inspiring to see current students like Victoria creating new pathways to improving the educational opportunities of future Penn State Law students. We’re proud to take another step forward in Penn State’s commitment to fostering a diverse and welcoming environment.”
Crynes explained, “I hope scholarship recipients will be able to focus on their studies, serving as leaders in the law school community and engaging with the broader legal community because of the reduced financial burden of law school. More importantly, I want them to understand that the selection committee, scholarship donors and myself believe they are the catalyst for creating positive change for first-generation law students and for Hispanics within the legal community and beyond.”
Crynes believes people can make a difference and together contribute to making a greater impact. “During Hispanic Heritage Month, I encourage you to invest into this endowment—knowing you are making a difference,” she said. “Everyone can contribute to the community—whether that is through financial gifts, mentorship, volunteering to conduct mock interviews or speaking to student organizations. There is no need to wait for the future when positive change can start now. To those who donate money or time into the lives of students, thank you.”
With the record-breaking success of “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” which raised $2.2 billion from 2016 to 2022, philanthropy is helping to sustain the University’s tradition of education, research and service to communities across the Commonwealth and around the globe. Scholarships enable our institution to open doors and welcome students from every background, support for transformative experiences allows our students and faculty to fulfill their vast potential for leadership, and gifts toward discovery and excellence help us to serve and impact the world we share. To learn more about the impact of giving and the continuing need for support, please visit raise.psu.edu.
If you would like to support this fund with a gift, please use this direct giving link.