Like most law students, Sara Granda had no easy time getting through the UC Davis School of Law.
Yet unlike most students, Granda is a quadriplegic who was denied an opportunity to take the California State Bar exam back in July 2009.
She was told she could not take the exam because of issues with her payment. Her case was taken to the California Supreme Court – who unanimously decided that Granda would be allowed to take the exam.
After passing the bar and graduating from law school, Granda was appointed assistant to the chief counsel for the Department of Health Care Services by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
After a long and public journey, The California Aggie sat down with the recent grad to discuss how she got to where she is today.
Q: Did you intend to go into law or politics?
A: I remember being 20 years old and thinking “How long am I going to be in college?” I just wanted a degree that would get me work.
I went to school for 12 years. If you would have told me that, I would have said, ‘that’s not what I’m going to do.’ But your whole life happens. And it’s not the end of the world. I’ve had relationships, I traveled, I did everything those years I was in school.
When I finished my undergraduate degree, I knew I wasn’t going to stay a social worker. I loved it, but I didn’t have a lot of respect that a lot of other social workers had. People would ask me, ‘what did you have to do for your degree?’ The same thing everyone else has to do.
Q: What was your experience like at UC Davis School of Law?
A: When I was attending school, my classmates were incredible. It was the loveliest group of people. People would help take care of me and watch me in class while my nurse went to the bathroom. It’s a really weird feeling to feel so connected to 200 totally random strangers.
Q: How did your time at Davis affect you post-graduation?
A: I thought the caliber of what people expected really helped me. Even though [students] drink and party and have a lot of fun, they also do a lot of work and dedication is really high. Since I was so used to that, I feel like it really helped me get through everything. That, and my family and the faculty at UC Davis. I didn’t want to let everyone down.
Q: What made you decide to work for the state?
A: [Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger] followed my case, I met him and he gave me a job. Out of the blue. He said ‘I want to appoint Sara.’
I intended to go into public policy, lobbying or advocating. I thought I’d do that with my law degree. But there’s just so much more that you can choose from. Working in health is really what I know and love.
Q: Is there anything that you would recommend to students who would like to get into politics?
A: I think when people gave me an opportunity, I very rarely said no. And that opened a lot of doors.
So I handed out lawn signs, called people to see if they wanted signs. And that lead me to meet more people. The higher educated you get it really truly is who you know and if they can vouch for you.
Don’t ever turn down any opportunity. You can always back out, but you have to aim really high. I don’t regret anything; I wouldn’t have done it differently. I learned along the way.
Freak stuff happens. And even though stuff happens, the possibilities are only as endless as you make them for yourself. I didn’t think I could do a one year masters program, which I don’t recommend, that almost killed me. And I didn’t know if I’d ever finish law school. But I did it.
Q: Where do you plan on going from here?
A: Like everything, I have no idea, but I’m open to whatever and I’m willing to jump on whatever I can.
I don’t mind being boring. But I worry that I’m not going to be satisfied by just doing a plain job. Because I’m so used to having so much drama around, it would be weird. So I have no idea what’s in store. But it’s a very exciting time to be doing health law. There’s a lot going on.
BECKY PETERSON can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.