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Scholars 2011


Kenia Acevedo
Wal-Mart,Inc. Scholar
UCLA School of Law, Class of 2012

Kenia Acevedo grew up in the San Fernando Valley and attended UCLA, where she graduated cum laude with a B.A. in sociology. As a law student at UCLA, Ms. Acevedo has served as co-chaired Students Helping Assure Racial Equity, Justice and Diversity (SHARE JD) and has been the articles editor for the Chicano/a Latino/a Law Review for two consecutive years. She has served on the boards of La Raza Student Association and the Public Interest Law Fund. Ms. Acevedo has interned for California Rural Legal Assistance in Salinas, CA and for the American Civil Liberties Union in New York City. This summer, Kenia is interning for Immigrant Legal Resource Center in San Francisco to learn more about public policy work and immigration law.

Jessica Acuna
Latino Prosecutors Foundation Scholar
UCLA School of Law, Class of 2012

Jessica Acuna grew up in Southeast Los Angeles and attended Huntington Park High School. Her parents are Nicaraguan immigrants who always pushed her to do her best. Ms. Acuna attended UC Berkeley and received a B.A. in both Political Science and Social Welfare and now attends UCLA School of Law where she served as the 2010-2011 Outreach Co-Chair for La Raza. She assists victims of domestic violence at a volunteer clinic through school and volunteers at her church as director of Bendecidos Para Bendecir, a program that outreaches to the community and distributes free food to the needy. This summer she is working in the Major Crimes Division at the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office where she hopes to get an inside look at the criminal justice system and in particular its impact on low income communities.


Margaret Buitrago
Greenberg Traurig LLP Scholar
UCLA School of Law, Class of 2012

Margaret was raised by a single mother who had to work two jobs to make ends meet. She is a magna cum laude graduate of the University of San Francisco where she was recognized for her outstanding public service three years in a row. Before entering law school, she worked in the offices of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi in San Francisco and Washington D.C. She has served as the President of the La Raza Law Students and was an intern in the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office. This summer she will be working in the Criminal Division of United States Attorney’s Office.

Ana Cisneros
Loyola Law School, Class of 2013

Growing up in Los Angeles as the daughter of Guatemalan immigrants, Ana Cisneros Alvarez discovered how daunting the legal system can be for working class, non-English speakers like her parents. While earning her B.A. degree at Pomona College, she devoted herself to advocating for workers’ rights and promoting higher education to Latina/o youths. After college, she worked at Inner City Law Center, providing assistance to individuals and families in the Skid Row area of Los Angeles. This summer she will be interning at the UCLA Downtown Labor Center where she will be mentored by renowned civil rights activists. As a future public interest attorney, she looks forward to reciprocating the love she received from her family and community by guiding others through the complex legal system towards justice.

Alexander Chavez
UCLA School of Law, Class of 2013

Raised by his single mother in a low-income neighborhood in San Diego, Alexander Chavez was on the road to becoming a high school dropout but managed to graduate. Inspired by his mother to improve his situation, he enrolled at a local community college and transferred to San Diego State University. In college, Mr. Chavez not only achieved academic success, but also became involved in student community organizations, including Nu Alpha Kappa Fraternity. Mr. Chavez recently completed a year working in the California State Treasurer's Office as part of the Executive Fellowship Program. He also interned with the Port of San Diego and hopes to someday work as a lawyer for one of the Southern California ports.

Caroline Dessert
Gibson Dunn& Crutcher LLP Scholar
UCLA School of Law, Class of 2012

After graduating from UC San Diego in 2005, Caroline dedicated herself to empowering marginalized groups through her work as a grassroots coordinator for Planned Parenthood, San Diego LGBT Community Center Public Policy Director and Regional Field Director for the No on Prop 8 campaign. Caroline is the Chicano-Latino Law Review Editor-in-Chief and active with LaRaza, Violence Against Women and the Learning Environment and Diversity Task Force. Caroline is the first in her family to attend graduate school and plans to pursue a career in public interest law.

Yvonne Garcia
Southwestern Law School, Class of 2012

After completing her undergraduate degree with a double major in Political Science and Spanish at Loyola Marymount University, Yvonne spent a year with the AmeriCorps program working with immigrant women in Harlem. Yvonne currently serves as Vice President of South western’s Labor and Employment Law Association and has volunteered at the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education. Last summer, Yvonne was an extern with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission where she saw firsthand the results of discrimination in the workplace. This is an area in which Yvonne hopes to use her law degree.

Elio Gonzalez
White & Case LLP Scholar
UCLA School of Law, Class of 2012

Elio is the son of immigrant farm workers and spent his summers working in scorching hot fields. These experiences provided him with the drive and perseverance to graduate summa cum laude from Texas A&M University in 2009. Elio has interest in pursuing international law and plans to pursue a career addressing international civil rights issues. Elio is currently a law clerk for David A. Katz and is active with LaRaza Law Students Association and the Legal Aid Foundation while holding the position of managing editor for the Chicano/a Law Review.


Francis Guzman
UCLA School of Law, Class of 2012

A native of Oxnard and the son of a farm worker, Frank started his college education at Oxnard College and ended up graduating from UC Berkeley in 2007. Before entering law school, he spent two years at the National Center for Youth Law. He is now enrolled in the David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy at UCLA. He has been a mentor for the UCLA Law Fellows Program, he is the co-president of UCLA's La Raza La Students Association and serves on the advisory board member for Raza Recruitment & Retention Center at Berkeley. Last summer he worked with Public Counsel’s Immigrant Rights Project, this year he will be at the Prison Law Office in Berkeley. When he graduates he plans to work on projects that assist at risk youth.

Jasmine Hernandez
UCLA School of Law, Class of 2012

The daughter of an Ecuadorian immigrant and raised in New York, Jasmine graduated magna cum laude from USC earning her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science with a Bio-Ethics and Communications minor. Jasmine has earned fellowships and legal internships with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; Dewy & LeBoeuf and Mayor Bloomberg's Office. She currently volunteers at the Santa Monica Self-Help Clinic and will be completing a judicial externship over the summer.

Laura Hernandez
UCLA School of Law, Class of 2013

The daughter of poor Mexican immigrants, Laura hopes to pursue a career as a law professor to teach courses in immigration and critical race studies. Laura has earned a Bachelor of Arts from Cornell University, a Masters from the University of Chicago and is currently seeking a PhD while attending law school. She is also a Law Fellows mentor and Reentry Legal Clinic volunteer while active with La Raza and the Chicano/Latino Law Review. Laura aspires to produce ideas that will begin to end social injustice and inequality everywhere.

Armando Lope
Verizon Wireless Scholar
Loyola Law School, Class of 2012

Armando Lope grew up in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles. From an early age he was interested in law. Growing up with a physically disabled sister, he learned about advocating for the rights of those who cannot advocate for themselves. Mr. Lope supported himself through college by working as a paralegal, and earned his degree in finance, real estate, and business law from Cal Poly Pomona. As a law student, Mr. Lope discovered a passion for oral advocacy and led his moot court team to the HNBA national competition in March 2011. After graduation, Mr. Lope intends to put those skills to use as a litigator: “I cannot see myself doing anything other than being in court,” he says.


Nestor Lopez
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Scholar

Southwestern Law School, Class of 2013 Nestor and his family left Colombia when he was four years old. After adjusting to life in the United States, he excelled academically and, at the same time, worked part-time for his father’s plumbing business. He eventually earned a B.S. in Criminal Justice, a B.A. in Spanish and Masters Degree in Public Administration, all from California Lutheran University. At Southwestern, he is a member of the Trial Advocacy Honors Program and he has volunteered his time as a Spanish interpreter for KIND (Kids in Need of Defense). He plans to pursue a career in immigration law.

Vanessa Manzi
Sidley & Austin LLP Scholar
Southwestern Law School, Class of 2012

When Vanessa moved to the United States from Venezuela at age 12, she did not speak English and had to quickly adapt to a new school environment and new customs. Despite these obstacles, Vanessa excelled in school and earned a Bachelor of Arts from UCLA in 2009. Vanessa aspires to practice immigration law and demonstrates her strong work ethic by working multiple jobs while attending law school in the evenings and volunteering as a mentor for Teen Korner and Orange County On Track, a program dedicated to assisting children of prisoners. Vanessa is fluent in Spanish, Italian and conversational French.


Yolanda Martin
Loyola Law School, Class of 2012

Yolanda is a UC San Diego graduate and is the first in her family to graduate high school, college and pursue a post-graduate education. The daughter of a single mother, Yolanda is strongly committed to the practice of family law and has been active at the Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law and Loyola's Center for Conflict Resolution. This summer, she will be working at the People's Law Center and externing for the Honorable Michael Stern at the Stanley Mosk Civil Courthouse.


Nicole Martinez
USC School of Law, Class of 2012

Immediately after high school, Nicole went to work full-time and attended evening classes at a community college for several years. She eventually transferred to San Diego State, where she excelled in the physical sciences and obtained a Bachelor Science degree in chemistry. While at USC she has volunteered with Public Counsel and has served as an intern in the Public Defender’s Office. Through these experiences she has developed a passion for criminal law and hopes to become a public defender.


Ron Miranda
Southwestern Law School, Class of 2011

Ron was born in Panama City, Panama and came to the US at 3 years old. He was raised in the San Fernando Valley and was fortunate enough to attend USC earning a B.S. in Kinesiology. After gaining diversified work experience he realized he wanted to pursue his education and decided to start the MBA program at Pepperdine. He soon recognized that he really wanted to earn a juris doctorate and be the first attorney in his family. Upon receiving his MBA he enrolled at Southwestern choosing the part time evening program, where during his tenure he served as the Co-President of LLSA, the MABA Vice-Chair, a 9th Circuit Student Lt. Governor and two year member of the Student-Faculty ethics committee. He is scheduled to complete his degree in December.


Helena Marissa Montes
Loyola Law School, Class of 2012

Helena filled up her schedule with many diverse community and school activities at USC where she received a B.A. in International Relations and Spanish with Honors. She created a mentoring program for inner city girls and interned at an immigration clinic. After her first year in law school, Helena spent last summer at the University of Bologna in Italy studying nonprofit law. She founded the Loyola Immigration Law Society which currently sponsors a program through HomeBoy Industries and the Dolores Mission. She also has completed an internship with the ACLU’s Immigrant Rights Project. Helena wants to be an immigration attorney.


Karla Navarrete
Loyola Law School, Class of 2012

Karla is the daughter of a custodian and a former labor union organizer who helped organize over 700 custodians and other workers at UCLA, after she received her undergraduate degree from that institution. Karla majored in Chicano Studies and graduated with a minor in English. Karla’s passion for immigrants’ rights has continued in law school where Karla has worked with HomeBoy Industries as a legal intern and at the Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project where she advises individuals facing deportation proceedings. Karla is also Co-Founder and President of the Immigration Law Society, Co-Chair of the Public Interest Law Foundation. Karla hopes to become an immigration attorney.


Ryon Nixon
Kirkland & Ellis LLP Scholar
UCLA School of Law, Class of 2013

The son of divorced parents living on opposite coasts, Ryon struggled academically in high school and hung out with the "wrong" crowd. Determined to overcome these obstacles, Ryon graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from UCLA in 2009 and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree. As a first year law student, Ryon is active with La Raza, Law Fellows and Chicano Latino Law Review and plans to work at the Legal Aid Youth Justice Program over the summer. Ryon has an investment banking background and aspires to practice law while giving back to the community through mentoring at inner-city high schools and juvenile halls.

Rosa Noyola
UCLA School of Law, Class of 2013

Rosa moved from Mexico at age 4 to be reunited with her parents in the United States. Her childhood experiences with poverty and violence drove her to find refuge in education. Rosa graduated cum laude from UC Irvine and earned a Bachelors of Art in English and Political Science. While attending college, she worked as a home health care-giver and has been active with community organizations such as Para Mujeres, La Raza and the Violence Against Women Association. Rosa aspires to practice international business litigation to globally advocate for immigrant rights and immigration laws such as the DREAM Act.

Rafael Orozco
Southwestern Law School, Class of 2014

Rafael attended public schools in Inglewood in an area that was rife with gang activity and few opportunities for a young man interested in academic pursuits. Despite the odds, he made his way to UC Berkeley where he earned his undergraduate degree in 2008. Rafael is interested in Business Law and Litigation and hopes to eventually work in a large law firm. Through Phi Alpha Delta and the Latino Law Students Association he plans to become involved in community building projects. For Rafael, earning a law degree would mean nothing if it did not involve in "giving back."

Eliana Ramirez
Pepperdine School of Law, Class of 2012

The daughter of an immigrant family, Eliana initially struggled in school because English was her second language. However, Eliana overcame this challenge by graduating high school with a 4.2 GPA and went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree from UCLA after spending five quarters on the Dean's List. Eliana has worked in clinics in Mexico and Brazil documenting human rights violations and empowering indigenous communities with education. Eliana published an article in Pepperdine's Dispute Resolution Law Journal entitled "A Lesson Learned from SB 1070: The Opportunity to Use Problem Solving in the Immigration Debate" and is currently interning at the United Nation's International Criminal Court in New York.

Leticia Ramirez
UCLA School of Law, Class of 2012

Leticia graduated from Stanford University in 2004 and immediately began working as union organizer for Service Employees International Union until May 2006. Leticia then worked for the City of Los Angeles' Anti- Gang Advancement Project as a policy analyst and a congressional campaign manager before entering law school in 2009. Leticia is the first in her family to graduate college and pursue a post-graduate degree and aspires to have a career assisting low-income and working-class families. Leticia is not present this evening due to receiving an internship in Washington D.C.

Rebecca I. Rosado
Verizon Wireless Scholar
Southwestern Law School, Class of 2013

Rebecca moved from Mexico with her mother and siblings to the United States at age 4. Rebecca's struggles to become a citizen fortified her character and empowered her to excel. Rebecca attended San Diego State University and graduated cum laude in 2005 with a Bachelor of Arts in Comparative Literature. Prior to law school, Rebecca worked as a Workers' Compensation paralegal managing case files and interpreting for Spanish-speaking clients. This work solidified her desire to pursue a legal career to proudly represent and improve community issues.


Sandra Sosa
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Scholar
Loyola Law School, Class of 2013

Sandra Sosa learned about how gratifying volunteer work can be when she was just a child; her widowed mother relied upon the help of community volunteers to help feed and educate Ms. Sosa and her siblings. Ms. Sosa appreciated the volunteers who helped her family. By high school, she was working right along with them to help others. Among her many volunteer jobs, Ms. Sosa has advocated for children and youth caught in the criminal justice system, has built homes in Tijuana, Mexico, and has mentored “troubled” teens. Ms. Sosa is continuing her volunteer activities even in law school. This summer she will be interning with the Santa Clara County Public Defender's Office. As an attorney, she will continue her dedication of working for the public interest.

Nicole Villalvazo
O’Melveny & Myers LLP Scholar
USC School of Law, Class of 2012

Nicole graduated USC in 2009 and moved across campus to the Gould School of Law later that year. This past year she served as the President of the Christian Law Society, and is the incoming Managing Editor of the Interdisciplinary Law Journal. She has worked as an intern at the District Attorney’s Office and currently works as a law clerk at Steptoe & Johnson LLP in Century City, where she will continue to work during the summer. Upon her graduation, she plans to work in a law firm and use her Spanish-speaking skills in international disputes and arbitration as well to perform pro bono work.

Ivette Zamora
UCLA School of Law, Class of 2012

Ivette is a double Bruin, having also completed her undergraduate degree at UCLA, despite the serious economic hardships her family faced when her father was deported to Mexico after many years in this country. Ivette worked as Princess Belle at Disneyland to help pay for college and to help her mother. At law school, Ivette is the Managing Editor of the Chicano/a Law Review and is very active with the La Raza Law Students Association, serving on its Board. Ivette is very interested in immigrants’ rights and immigration policy and hopes to use her law degree “to transform social justice” for underrepresented communities.

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