Elena Tsizer credits Community College of Philadelphia for helping achieve her vision of the American dream.
Attorney Tsizer is now a solo practitioner living and working in Framingham, Massachusetts, just outside Boston. Her law practice focuses on family law, estate planning and consumer bankruptcy. She is also providing pro bono (free) legal services for the residents of several Massachusetts counties.
But when you speak to Tsizer, who arrived in Philadelphia in 1993 after emigrating from Ukraine, she makes one thing very clear—she is always grateful for the Paralegal Studies education she received at Community College of Philadelphia.
“The two greatest things about the program are a fantastic faculty, which consists of both practicing and non-practicing attorneys, who teach you how the law is truly practiced,” Tsizer said. “They teach you the skills you need to actually succeed in the legal field and outside of it. The second great thing about the program is that it teaches you how to research. The value of that skill cannot be overstated, regardless of whether you remain in the legal field or go elsewhere. I continue to use the skills I was taught here every day.”
Tsizer is a real-life example of a person who used a community college as a path to law school.
An analysis by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) in 2008 found that students starting at two-year institutions tend to succeed in law school as well as students who start at four-year institutions. LSAC also reports that more law school applicants, especially Hispanic/Latino applicants, are beginning their undergraduate education at more racially diverse two-year institutions nationwide.
She started at the College in 1996 after Philadelphia attorney Thomas Hora, who was then teaching at the College’s Paralegal program, recommended that she apply. She credits Kathleen M. Smith, J.D., director of the College’s Fox Rothschild Center for Law and Society, with helping her to enroll and eventually to graduate with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Paralegal Studies in 2003.
While at the College, she worked full time as a secretary in a solo Philadelphia law practice that served Russian and Ukrainian immigrants.
After her graduation, Tsizer went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Public Relations/Advertising from Temple University, a Juris Doctor degree from the New England School of Law and a Master of Laws in Taxation from Boston University.
Following law school, she served as a judicial law clerk for the Family and Probate Court Department of the Massachusetts Trial Court, which handles, amongst other things, the litigation of divorces, will contests, guardianship and custody cases.
Before her emigration to the United States, Tsizer was a ballet dancer in her native Ukraine, performing for the National Opera House of Ukraine, Kiev Classical Ballet Theater, and Kiev Theater for Children and Youth. An injury ended her dancing career.
Her hard work and upbeat attitude is helping secure a bright future for her. When you ask her what are among her life’s fondest memories, she smiles and says that her time at Community College of Philadelphia will always have a special place in her heart.
“This was one of the best programs I could have ever wished for,” she said. “It truly started my path to where I am today so it is truly a path to opportunity. When I attended the Paralegal Studies program, my life really didn’t begin until 5:45 p.m. in the afternoon when my classes started here. My fondest memory is actually coming here and studying and learning new things in English, which is my second language. This (College) was really my life and everything else I did all day was leading up to this.”