Law Students

'Unrealistic Goal' Helped Ex-Inmate Journey from Prison Cell to Yale Law


Andres Idarraga’s future didn’t look promising when his drug-dealing caught up with him and he was sentenced to a 14-year term in a Rhode Island prison.

He was about 20 years old and had never graduated from high school. But he began spending all his free time in the prison library, reading voraciously and discussing events in the outside world with other inmates there. He earned his G.E.D. high school equivalency degree, helped other inmates get theirs, too, and, when he was released, enrolled in college, reports the Today Show.

A believer in the power of “unrealistic goals”—as well as a step-by-step approach to pursuing them—Idarraga had applied to prestigious Brown University in Providence, and was rejected. But, a year later, after he enrolled in a state university and got top grades, Brown agreed to let him in, recounts an article on NBC’s website. Now, at age 30, he is about to begin a new three-year program of study at another prestigious institution—Yale Law School. He hopes eventually to teach at his own charter school.

“He can’t possibly be the exception,” says Glenn Loury, a professor who served as something of a mentor to Idarraga at Brown. “There’s got to be others like him. I just think his case shows us that there’s an unexploited potential for others.”

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