A first-generation college student, Wilberto Sicard ’20 wanted to be a lawyer since the third grade.
“At first, it just seemed like a great and respected career path, but as I got older, I saw it as a way to initiate change in my community,” says Sicard, who has made it his mission to fight for equality in the Lehigh Valley and elsewhere.
Sicard was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, after his parents moved from Puerto Rico. In high school, he participated in wrestling and football. When he played away games, he started noticing disparities between his school and those he visited.
“I saw other schools were better funded, had better facilities and more money to spend on extracurriculars and leadership programs,” he says. “It got me thinking, what led to this state of affairs?”
The experience inspired his Lehigh senior honors thesis, “City with Limits: An Untold History of Residential Segregation and Education Inequality in Allentown,” which examines how residential segregation created a wealth gap resulting in an underfunded school district.
After earning a degree with double majors in history and Africana studies at Lehigh, Sicard worked as a community organizer and helped run Generation Next, a program that helps first-generation students of color in the Lehigh Valley get into college by providing scholarships and helping them navigate the application process. Sicard also became vice president of the board of directors for the Lehigh Valley Justice Institute, where he still serves.
At Yale, he was an intern for the Public Interest Law Center and assisted the legal team in a lawsuit filed by multiple school districts, parents and advocacy groups in 2014 against the commonwealth that argued the state’s funding of K-12 education is inadequate. As a result of that lawsuit, a judge declared Pennsylvania’s school funding system unconstitutional.
When Sicard graduates from Yale in May 2024, he plans to return to Allentown to serve as a law clerk for U.S. District Court Judge John M. Gallagher for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
“I really hope to do something that will make a positive impact in Allentown and make it a better community for the people who grew up in the neighborhoods I grew up in,” Sicard says.
Read about more of Lehigh's community of Future Makers here.