Anthony Alto ’20 graduated from Cleveland State University in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and put his degree to use as an Election Recruitment Official with the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. In that role, he engaged in the community to recruit and train workers to assure quality and balanced elections. It was during that time, Anthony realized that in order to make the impact in the community that he truly wanted, he needed to acquire the skills and tools that come with a legal education.
“When someone is hungry, most people can make them a meal to meet their needs,” Alto explained with an analogy. “But when someone is getting evicted, only a few people can fight for them in court to keep their home. I want to be one of those few people.”
Alto returned to his alma mater to attend CSU’s Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in 2016 and from the onset, focused on using his expanding legal knowledge in the community. His impact during his time in law school was so pronounced that he was recently selected as the 2020 recipient of the Dean’s Learn Law. Live Justice Award.
Each year, a graduating student receives the Dean’s Learn Law. Live Justice Award by not only achieving academic success, but also by demonstrating what it means to live justice ─ being committed to making clients’ lives better and the community stronger. Alto was nominated for the award by members of the CSU C|M|LAW faculty and staff.
“I’m very humbled and honored to receive this award,” Alto said. “I try to positively impact my community every day in small ways, but I’ve always done it because I feel it’s our responsibility as citizens. It makes me feel great knowing that others have noticed me, but I really hope others realize that doing small things is not difficult and can have a far-reaching impact.”
Alto has worked with real clients with legal problems as a student in both CSU C|M|LAW’s Civil Litigation and Community Advocacy Clinics. Those clinics showed Alto the importance of considering others’ mindsets as they battle legal challenges. He has also volunteered with the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland and fondly recalls an instance where his ability to speak Spanish was the key to allowing a woman to work with an attorney to keep her and her children from being evicted from their apartment.
Alto’s Hispanic heritage is an important part of his identity and he has managed to volunteer with several organizations that focus on the Hispanic community. He has served as a summer mentor with Esperanza, Inc., participated on the Empowerment Committee for the Hispanic Roundtable and is involved with the Young Latino Network.
“When I am reaching out to my (Hispanic) community, it’s not people I’m just seeing for the first time. These people are friends I went to school with, parishioners I go to church with and people I see while I’m shopping. It’s so important to me because these are my own people,” Alto said.
At CSU C|M|LAW, Alto served as President of the Hispanic Law Student Association. During the spring of 2019 while Alto was the association’s treasurer, he helped organize a trip to a detention facility in Texas where students helped migrants seeking asylum.
Alto has managed to be engaged with the community through CSU C|M|LAW and through outside organizations, all while attending law school part time and working full time as Administrative Assistant and Clerk to the Board for the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. He also welcomed his first child, Anthony Jr., during law school and could not have maintained the hectic schedule without the support of his wife Alicia. Even with that support, Alto has struggled at times but believes the positive impact has been worth the sacrifices.
“We all make time for what’s important,” Alto explained. “If you want to do something badly enough, you’ll find a way to make time for it.”
Upon graduating and passing the bar examination, Alto intends to open a solo practice that will allow him to continue establishing a strong presence in the community. Whether it is filing for expungement so someone can get a job or answering an eviction claim for someone who does not speak English, Alto will be working toward his purpose in life – helping others.