SUU to Everywhere

Thomas Ybarra (’15)

Thomas Ybarra (’15)
SUU to Family Law Attorney

Originally published on October 15, 2021.

Thomas Ybarra from Boulder City, Nevada, was familiar early on with the campus, thanks to his participation in the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s high school Shakespeare competition, and he chose SUU for its familiar theater-centric atmosphere. However, he went on to earn his degree in something unexpected: political science.

The stretch from theater to law may seem like a large one, but the law was indeed Thomas’s first passion, and that passion began, suitably, with an example of theatrical arts.

“I honestly knew I wanted to be a lawyer after watching Legally Blonde at seven years old. I didn’t know what kind of law I wanted to practice, but I knew I wanted to be a lawyer,” he says. 

Following in his mother’s footsteps, Thomas came to SUU, where he was greatly involved in campus life. He says, “I was involved in so many activities at SUU from the Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service, to SUUSA, to moot court and theater.”

Thomas earned many awards and titles for his work in those areas including president of the Student Bar Association, president of the Multicultural Student Association, Best Trialist Award, and Moot Court champion. 

These extracurriculars turned out to be as valuable as his classes, helping him find his voice and eventually translating to increased confidence in the courtroom. In fact, he credits SUU with much of his current success.

“I am now a successful lawyer and I attribute this to the launching board SUU gave me in finding the confidence to advocate for my beliefs and for people in need,” he says. “SUU prepared me for my future in multiple ways. I felt ready to tackle any career.”

In addition to this academic success, Thomas also found a support system of lifelong friends while at SUU. The group of friends he found has become more like family, and its members have managed to keep in touch with one another, meeting up a couple of times a year and even attending one another’s weddings.

“I definitely found a community at SUU that will forever be a part of me,” he says. 

After graduating, Thomas worked for the Utah State Legislature where he helped run a state legislative campaign. Impressive as this is, it’s not the thing he’s most proud of. 

“I am most proud of following my dreams since I was a child. I defied the odds and continued to fight against the systematic challenges of being a gay Latino in the United States,” he says. “I have faced lots of adversity, but I overcame that adversity because I had one single goal in mind: to help people. I said I was going to be a lawyer at seven years old and here I am, a barred Oregon attorney.”

Thomas now works as a family law attorney at Stahancyk, Kent & Hook in Portland, Oregon, where he takes pride in being able to help families navigate some of the most difficult times in their lives.