Growing up, Kevin Paredes always knew he wanted to go into law—and that he wanted to do musical theatre. While the two fields don’t typically intersect, at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study he created a concentration to pursue both passions. Now, he’s studying his concentration, the American political System and the idea of justice, one day and belting show tunes in The Drowsy Chaperone the next.
Making Friends, Finding Community
As a Peruvian-American and first-generation college student, Kevin arrived at NYU unsure what to expect. “I went in completely blind. I had no idea what I was getting into, and I didn’t know what questions to ask. Plus, I worried that I wouldn’t find anyone to relate to culturally,” he says. But Kevin’s fears quickly dissipated when he connected with other Peruvian-American students who, like him, were commuters living in New York or New Jersey. “There’s someone and something for everyone here. And I found a plethora of resources to help me along the way,” he adds. “Now, I’m in a position to provide guidance for students who are struggling, which is really important to me.”
Creating a Concentration at Gallatin
Raised in Queens, Kevin knew he wanted to stay close to home for college. Initially, he vacillated between NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, lauded for its acting curriculum, and the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), with its strong political science program. When he learned about Gallatin, where students design their own concentrations, he knew it was a perfect fit.
Kevin’s first semester consisted of three political science classes and one acting class, a schedule he’s kept for each subsequent semester. Then, he began designing a concentration that spoke to his unique background and long-held career goals. “Originally, my concentration was called what politicians should study. I felt that modern politicians lack a lot of vital knowledge. But at Gallatin, I took an amazing variety of classes, and justice was a constant theme,” he says. “I’ve always struggled with the idea of justice: how we perceive it, what it is for different people. I want to change things from the inside out, but you have to learn what justice is before you can fight for it. I decided to study the American political system and the idea of justice to address our system’s inequities and discrepancies.”
Out of the Classroom and Offstage
Kevin’s extracurricular activities support his legal and theatre coursework. He’s president of the Gallatin Law Society (GLS), human resources director for NYU Mock Trial, and a member of CAS Theatre and NYU Lamplighters.
Kevin was poised to take over as president of GLS in spring 2020. Then the pandemic hit, and life moved online. “We’d scheduled our first meeting for mid-March. So we took the spring and summer to regroup, and I’m excited to rebuild the community this fall,” he says. In keeping with his commitment to increasing knowledge of and access to our legal system, he explains, “The original purpose of GLS was to educate students who plan to dedicate themselves to legal careers. My vision is a bit different. I don’t want to exclude anyone who’s still debating a career in law. Going forward, GLS will open our doors to anyone and everyone who’s interested in exploring the legal world.” NYU Lamplighters meets a similar need in the wider New York community, creating accessible and inclusive performances for young audiences by performing at public schools across the city.
Achieving a Just Future
While the present is uncertain, Kevin’s future is clear: he wants to go to law school, become a prosecutor, and then pursue a career in politics. “I’ve learned so much at Gallatin, and I’m excited to put what I’ve learned into action. They say that change occurs in small increments, but I want to make big changes,” he affirms. “I hope to create a fairer system, built for all people, rather than perpetuating injustices, racial disparities, and violence. Our system hasn’t changed for many years, but with recent events, the future looks a bit brighter. I want to be a part of that.”