Jesus (Paco) Estrada Brings Passion and Perspective to LMU

Monday, November 9, 2020

via Paco Estrada

Jesus (Paco) Estrada Brings Passion and Perspective to LMU
By Danica Creahan

Jesus “Paco” Estrada stepped onto LMU’s campus for the first time when he was in the third grade. He knew even then that it was the place for him. 

“I saw it and in my head I was like, ‘You know I'm gonna come here, one day,’” Paco recounted in a Zoom interview. 

A double major in theology and Spanish, LMU’s Jesuit values and welcoming nature are what stood out to Paco the most. As a catholic himself, he tries to exemplify these values in his daily life. That effort shines through in all the work he does for our community. In the first semester of his freshman year alone, Paco has shown himself to be a role model for us all. 

Since coming to LMU, Paco has made himself an essential fixture of the community. He is part of First to Go (FTG), Resilience, and Christian Life Community (CLC), as well as a member of the Social Justice Scholars community and the Campus Ministry.

On top of all that, he mentors high schoolers through the college application process. Paco began working as a mentor through a program his friend at USC started. But after working with his mentee and discovering she had already had the opportunity to be a part of Questbridge, a nonprofit that connects students from low-income backgrounds with universities such as Dartmouth and Princeton, he started to doubt the need for his expertise. 

“I was just spouting information at her, and she'd say, ‘Oh yeah, I know that. I know that, I know that,” Paco said. “Not to say, I don't want to help her. It's just like, does she really necessarily need my help?”

This realization led Paco to create his own mentorship program that goes beyond what programs such as Questbridge do and utilizes specific knowledge gained through his own experiences. 

“I'd rather focus on students that would actually benefit more and don't have access to these kinds of's not just me helping them through the college app process, but also helping them build connections and relationships that will help them later on in the future.”

Creating this mentorship program has inspired and motivated Paco to realize his dream of becoming an immigration lawyer. In a piece he wrote for the Center for Advancing the American Dream during his summer internship with them, Paco put his dreams for himself and for the future into his own words.

“I hope to open people's hearts to see the love and understanding that will humanize immigrants.  To look beyond the way the media portrays us and the dehumanizing accusations some politicians have made. After all, immigrants are people…just like me and my family.”

For now Paco gets to live out his current dream: being an LMU student. Paco noted the first time he and his parents drove up to campus and took in that massive fountain against the sprawling green hill, the realization that this was his school, it felt unreal. 

“My parents were like, ‘Whoa, you're gonna come here,’ it was just a little moment.”

While he described it as a “little moment,” Paco’s parents’ opinion is anything but “little” to him. He considers them an essential part of who he is, a large part of his identity, and his face lights up every time he talks about them.

Everything I do [is] for my parents,” Paco said. “They’ve supported me so much to get me to where I am today and if it weren't for them I'd never be in a private high school, which gave me the opportunity to go to LMU.”  

Paco’s parents both made perilous journeys to cross the border and create a new life for their children, and his respect for them is boundless. He refers to his mother as his “loving hero” and considers his father to be the hardest working man he knows. 

“It’s said that parents figuratively move mountains for their kids, but my parents literally moved countries,” he said.

In the piece he wrote during his summer internship with the Milken Institute for the American Dream, he describes his family as “the perfect paradigm of the struggles of first-generation immigrants,” and notes that although he is not privileged in wealth, he is “privileged to have such loving and supportive parents.”

Time with his family has been one of the positives from the pandemic for Paco. With his younger sister home doing remote learning as well, the internet quality is poor, but quality time with family is suddenly abundant.

“Before, we'd all be busy with work, school [and] extracurriculars…we get to have meals together now, that wasn't really an option before. And I bought a foosball table. Sometimes we just go outside and play.”

But lockdown has not been entirely smooth-sailing for the Estrada family. In mid-April, while Paco was still in his senior year of high school, his mother, father, and himself became ill with Covid-19. 


“I had to wear a mask within my own house and stay in my own room, and my own sister would be scared to give me food. It's a different experience for sure.” 

While everyone in the family made a full recovery, Paco said the illness increased the difficulty of those last few weeks before graduation. 

“I just said, ‘I want to keep working.’ And honestly, probably the only reason I kept going was to go to LMU…I'm just really looking forward to my parents seeing me walk the stage. That's still what I look forward to right now.”

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