15 Scholarship Recipients Exemplify the Very Best Among Aspiring Lawyers
Featured photo: Thomas A. Saenz, a nationally recognized civil rights attorney, MALDEF’s President and General Counsel. Previously, Counsel to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
LOS ANGELES, CA – Today, MALDEF announced the scholarship recipients in its 2014-2015 Law School Scholarship Program.
Since MALDEF’s (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) founding, the civil rights organization has awarded scholarships to law students who will further MALDEF’s mission of advancing the civil rights of the Latino community in the United States. In recent years, MALDEF has annually awarded 5-15 scholarships of $5,000 each. “In the context of heightened cynicism about the legal profession, the applicants for MALDEF scholarships demonstrate that there are still some who want to enter the profession for the best of reasons, prepared to sacrifice much in service of the community,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel. “MALDEF is proud to support some of these exemplary aspiring lawyers through our scholarship program.”
Each year, MALDEF asks a national Law School Scholarship Committee of leading attorneys to help select our scholarship recipients. Jose Sanchez, MALDEF Board Member, Partner at Sidley Austin LLP, and Chair of this year’s Committee, said, “It is an honor to support this year’s recipients, who represent the exceptional talent of the next generation of legal advocates and community leaders. MALDEF’s Law School Scholarship Program is an investment in them as much as it is in the future of our legal profession. We thank the major funders of this Program and the members of MALDEF’s Law School Scholarship Committee for truly understanding the importance of this investment.”
MALDEF’s Law School Scholarship Program is open to all law students enrolled at an accredited United States law school. MALDEF’s Law School Scholarship Committee assesses applicants based on three main factors: 1) Personal Background and Financial Need; 2) Academic and Extracurricular Achievement; and 3) Record of Service to the Latino Community and Plans for Future Service. Applications for the 2015-2016 MALDEF Law School Scholarship Program, due February 1, 2016, are available for download here and at our website, www.maldef.org.
MALDEF thanks the Hearst Foundation, Walmart, Toyota, and the Law School Scholarship Committee for their generous support of our 2014-2015 Law School Scholarship Program. Donations may be made to MALDEF’s Law School Scholarship Program here.
MALDEF’S 2014-2015 Law School Scholarship Recipients:
Maritza R. Agundez
Southwestern Law School
Maritza Agundez, a first generation Mexican American, grew up in a single-parent household in the Harbor City public housing projects. She attended Occidental College, where her double major in Politics and Urban and Environmental Policy provided the theoretical foundation for her advocacy work. Ms. Agundez is currently a federal judicial extern to the Honorable S. James Otero, and she plans to use her legal education to write policy that will ameliorate the adversity still prevalent in her community.
American University Washington College of Law (WCL)
Alejandra Aramayo is the daughter of a formerly undocumented Bolivian immigrant, and the first person in her family to attend college and law school. Her desire to serve the Latino community as an impact litigator became clear after participating in the NYU Immigration Moot Court Competition and interning at the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project. After law school, Ms. Aramayo will serve as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable David Briones in the Western District of Texas, El Paso Division.
Santa Clara University School of Law
Although labeled an “at-risk youth,” Carlos Barba’s life reached a turning point after witnessing the injustices underpaid workers like his single mother faced. As an undergraduate at UC Santa Cruz, his volunteering efforts ranged from interviewing clients in legal clinics to grassroots organizing in response to policy initiatives such as the DREAM Act. Mr. Barba continues to advocate for the Latino community; as an attorney, he hopes to solve complex problems faced by low-income communities.
Southwestern Law School
Karina Godoy is the daughter of Mexican immigrants, and the first person in her family to pursue a higher education. She graduated from USC with honors, and through her volunteer work found a passion in serving her community. Ms. Godoy is a recent law school graduate and recipient of the George and Katrina Woolverton Award for Public Service. She will participate in the prestigious ABOTA Fellowship, and continue to serve her community by being a voice for indigent communities.
University of California, Hastings College of the Law
Yesenia Lagunas immigrated to the United States from Mexico when she was five years old. Despite her immigration status and inability to obtain financial aid, she graduated with honors from UCLA. Ms. Lagunas’ interests in labor rights stem from her internship at the UCLA Labor Center; in her own words, “I witnessed the struggles of day laborers…it was evocative of my family’s struggle. I felt a responsibility to help.” Ms. Lagunas, a Peggy Browning Fellow, is in her third year of law school, and intends to focus on labor and employment law.
University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law
Susan Lopez, the daughter of a single mother, received her B.A. in Sociology from the University of Chicago, where she was active in the Summer Links Public Service Program started by First Lady Michelle Obama. She recently received her J.D. from UCLA Law, where she served as Co-chair of La Raza Law Students Association, Co-chair of the Youth Deportation Defense Clinic, and as an editor of the UCLA Chicano/Latino Law Review. During her summers, Ms. Lopez clerked at the Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project and at Chicago Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers. She is passionate about immigration issues, and is the inaugural Stacy Tolchin Immigration Fellow at the Law Offices of Stacy Tolchin.
Cristel S. Martinez
Western State College of Law
Cristel Martinez, the first in her family to graduate from college, was born in Honduras and migrated to the United States when she was nine years old. As an undocumented student, she has worked full-time while attending law school. Ms. Martinez received the Best Oralist award in the 1L Moot Court Competition from Western State College of Law, and plans to use her law education to work towards equal access to opportunities for all.
University of Texas School of Law
Originally from Mexico City, Berenice Medellin is a first-generation college graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. She is in her last year of law school at the University of Texas School of Law where she completed the most pro bono service hours at her school, with over 160 hours. Ms. Medellin hopes to use her legal education to advocate for others, especially the most vulnerable members of our society.
Harvey H. Meza
University of California, Irvine School of Law
Harvey H. Meza is the eldest son of hard-working Mexican and Spanish immigrants who came to the United States to secure a promising future for their children. Passionate about social justice issues, Mr. Meza volunteers his time to assist detained indigent clients seeking asylum. Prior to law school, he interned at the Catalonia Department of Justice in Barcelona, Spain, where he conducted award-winning research on comparative mediation alternatives for alleged juvenile offenders.
Nicolas Molina, Jr.
Yale Law School
Nicolas Molina, Jr. attended public schools in Southern California. He graduated with honors from UCLA, where he was also elected to Phi Beta Kappa and awarded numerous merit-based scholarships. Throughout his life, Mr. Molina has placed an emphasis on community outreach. He now attends Yale Law School. Mr. Molina intends to continue incorporating public service in his work after graduation.
Northeastern University School of Law
Kelsey Morales decided to attend law school after witnessing the challenges her family contended with because of their Mexican origin while living on the U.S.–Mexico border. She has interned with the Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project in Boston, where she conducted intake interviews with detained individuals and unaccompanied minors. After law school, Ms. Morales plans to provide direct representation for detained immigrants who lack legal support.
Juan Cristóbal Quevedo
University of Tennessee College of Law
Juan Cristóbal Quevedo migrated to the United States when he was five years old. After discovering that his family met the necessary elements to qualify for adjustment of immigration status, he successfully coordinated their seven-year immigration case. This process made him realize the powerful role the law can play in providing protection for people in need. After graduating, he will bring the lessons he has learned, his compassion, and the tenacity that drives him to the American Bar.
City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law
Marc Ramirez was born and raised in New York City to Puerto Rican parents. He realized early on that he wanted to speak for those who could not speak for themselves. Therefore, he has dedicated his law school internships to helping some of the most vulnerable populations in our country, including transgender individuals, people with criminal records, and LGBTQ homeless youth. Mr. Ramirez aspires to become a public interest lawyer.
Santa Clara University School of Law
Ruby Renteria is the proud daughter of Mexican immigrants, and is the first person in her family to attend college. Ms. Renteria experienced barriers faced by many low-income, first-generation Mexican Americans; these struggles inspired her to pursue a law degree in hopes that she could advocate on behalf of the often voiceless people in her community. Ms. Renteria is currently working for the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, where she advocates on behalf of low-income tenants facing homelessness.
Rutgers University School of Law
After her father went to prison, Jacquelyn Suarez became acutely aware of the stigma a prison sentence carries for both transgressors and their families. Through her law education, she is committed to ensuring that Latinos, specifically “at-risk” youth, are treated fairly by the justice system. Ms. Suarez has worked in criminal defense on behalf of juveniles, and has created an expungement program through the Rutgers Children’s Justice Clinic. As a Marshall-Brennan Fellow, she also taught constitutional law to high school students and juveniles at a youth detention center in Camden, New Jersey. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa with high honors from American University, and recently graduated from the Rutgers School of Law with honors.
Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation’s leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the “Latino Legal Voice for Civil Rights in America” MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit: www.maldef.org.