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Scholars 2012

Ursula Aguiar
Southwestern Law School, Class of 2014

Ursula was raised in the City of Salinas by her parents who emigrated from Mexico and worked as field laborers before becoming teachers. As an elementary student in a parochial school, she struggled to maintain strong ties with her cultural heritage, but later learned to embrace her identity in high school. Ursula earned a B.A. in Political Science and minor in history from University of California, Santa Barbara while she held two volunteer positions at the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s Office and was the external outreach chair for M.U.J.E.R. At Southwestern, Ursula is part of the Latino Law Students Association and will extern at the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office VIP division this summer. Ursula plans to practice criminal and immigration law.

Karen Aguilar
Latino Prosecutors Foundation Scholar
Southwestern Law School, Class of 2014

Karen was raised in South Los Angeles, a crime-ridden area, by her parents who emigrated from El Salvador and Honduras. Karen transferred from Santa Monica College to University of California, Riverside. She earned a B.A. in Anthropology/ Law and Society and graduated cum laude. At Southwestern, she is a Wildman/Schumacher and Public Interest Law Grant scholar. As a first year law student, she volunteered for the Domestic Violence Project and was active in the Latino Law Student Association and Public Interest Law Committee. She is the incoming president of the Labor and Employment Law Association and board member of the Los Angeles Public Interest Law Journal. This summer, she will intern for Learning Rights Law Center. Karen is interested in public interest law and prosecution.

Paul Aguilar
Southwestern Law School, Class of 2014

Paul was raised in Echo Park with his two younger brothers. He attended Brown University where he received a B.A. in Latin American Studies. During college, Paul was involved in MeCha de Brown and the East Coast Chicano Student Forum. He continues to support and mentor Latino students attending Brown. As an evening student at Southwestern, Paul has served as the student vice chair for the Mexican American Bar Association and as the California Democratic Party delegate. His recent efforts include working for the only Latino candidate running for District Attorney of Los Angeles. His tasks include registering voters and encouraging the Latino vote throughout Los Angeles County. Paul is interested in prosecution and municipal/education law.

Ana Maria Cisneros Alvarez
Loyola Law School, Class of 2013

Ana witnessed the deprivation of workers' rights at home when her immigrant Guatemalan parents faced workplace discrimination. Ana’s early interest in workers' rights led her to serve in the Community Labor Environmental Action Network Car Wash Campaign, where she helped organize car wash workers. Ana attended Pomona College where she majored in sociology. While in law school, Ana has represented workers before the Labor Commissioner as an intern at Bet Tzedek, clerked at the Wage Justice Center, and worked on drafting a statewide Domestic Worker Bill of Rights at the UCLA Downtown Labor Center. Ana sees her future as one where she will continue to advocate for fair and humane treatment of all workers.

Daniel Borca
UCLA School of Law, Class of 2014

Raised by a single mother of three children, Daniel recognized the value of education and hoped to blaze a trail of success for himself and his family. Daniel, a first generation college student, worked in maintenance to help finance his sibling’s education while attaining a double major at UC San Diego. He was inspired to pursue a legal education while serving as an advocate of at-risk youth at the YWCA of Silicon Valley, Project Inspire Program. At UCLA Law, Daniel has established himself as an active member of La Raza Law Students and Chicano Latino Law Review. Daniel is excited to work at Bay Area Legal Aid this summer serving the very community he calls his own.

Lorenzo Callender

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Scholar
Southwestern Law School, Class of 2013

Lorenzo was born in Panama City, Panama before coming to the United States. A first generation college student, he graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa with a B.A. in Theatre and Drama. Since college, Lorenzo has been working as an expert witness and consultant in the area of harassment and discrimination in the workplace. At Southwestern, Lorenzo has been a peer mentor, vice president of the Latino Law Students Association, president of the Labor and Employment Law Association, and evening vice president of the Student Bar Association. Currently, he is a law clerk at Collins Collins Muir & Stewart and will work at Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith during the upcoming year. Lorenzo hopes to practice employment law.

Alex Chávez
UCLA School of Law, Class 2013

Raised by his single mother in a low-income area of San Diego, Alex was on the road to becoming a high school dropout. However, inspired by his mother's hard work, Alex focused on education as his way out of poverty. He enrolled at Southwestern Community College and later transferred to San Diego State University, where he double majored in international business and economics. While at SDSU, Alex was involved in a number of student community organizations, including Nu Alpha Kappa Fraternity, Inc. At UCLA Law, Alex served as recruitment co-chair for La Raza Law Students Association and as the student representative for the Graduate Council. This summer, Alex will be interning abroad in Shanghai, China. Alex plans to work for Port of San Diego.

Erik Espinoza
Southwestern Law School, Class of 2014

Erik was born in Mexico and raised in South Central, Los Angeles, where he realized that the only way to avoid a life of gangs and drugs was through education. His commitment to excelling in academics continued through high school, where he faced the adversities of the foster care system. He went on to graduate from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. At Southwestern, he is an executive board member of the Los Angeles Public Interest Law Journal, was a finalist of the Negotiations Honors Program Upper-Division Competition, and was a recipient of the Hewitt/ Hookstratten Scholarship Endowment Fund. This summer, Erik will intern at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. He plans to practice immigration and public interest law.

Tony Gomez
Loyola Law School, Class of 2015

Tony is a first generation Mexican-American. He graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz where he studied child psychology. As an undergraduate student, Tony helped organize and run summer camps at orphanages in Costa Rica, through the program, Ayudando Niños en Centroamérica (ANECA, Helping Children in Central America). In law school, Tony has continued his work on behalf of children. He presently serves as a behavioral therapist at Focus Kids, a non-profit organization that provides behavior intervention to children attending California schools. After graduating from law school, Tony wants to continue advocating on behalf of children as a public defender in the youth court.

Claudia Lopez
USC School of Law, Class of 2014

Claudia was born and raised in an immigrant enclave of South Central Los Angeles. Claudia attended Claremont McKenna College where she double majored in government and Chicano studies with a leadership studies minor. After college, she served one year as an AmeriCorps member tutoring at-risk youth in Boyle Heights. At USC Law, she served as a 1L representative for Latino Law Students Association and the Critical Legal Studies Association, both organizations of which she will be a board member next year. This summer she will be working for California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. in the Indigenous Farm Worker Project assisting Oaxacan indigenous migrant workers. Claudia plans to practice either immigration law or union-side labor law.

Vanessa Manzi
Southwestern Law School, Class of 2012

Vanessa Manzi was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela. She immigrated to the United States when she was 12 years old. She graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2009. Although Vanessa has overcome many obstacles in her life, she is currently working on overcoming her biggest challenge yet-law school. She works hard to balance work and school, but still finds time to give back to the public through her community service project, Teen Korner. She believes that teenagers can be encouraged to pursue their dreams with proper mentorship. Vanessa hopes to become an immigrant rights advocate in the near future.


Marisa Melero

Southwestern Law School, Class of 2014
Marisa was raised in Riverside, CA by parents who emigrated from a small pueblo in Mexico. After overcoming language barriers and finally mastering the English language, Marisa devoted her time to community service and graduated at the top of her class at Rancho Verde High School. Marisa attended UCLA, where she participated in Student Government and other campus organizations. She became the first in her family to earn a B.A. in Sociology while volunteering at Public Counsel. At Southwestern Law School, Marisa serves as treasurer for the Women’s Law Association. Marisa plans to practice contract law and continue empowering other Latinos to pursue legal careers.

Ana Graciela Nájera Mendoza

UCLA School of Law, Class of 2014
Ana was raised in Los Angeles by a Guatemalan mother who exemplified hard work and perseverance by raising four children on a working class salary. Ana attended Macalester College (St. Paul, MN), where she led campaigns to increase student of color enrollment and bring Latina studies to the campus. Since 2004, Ana has worked as a community organizer in several areas including civic engagement, media justice, and education in low-income communities across the country and in Ecuador. She is now studying critical race studies at UCLA. She will be a summer clerk at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and co-chair of La Raza Latino/a Law Student Association this upcoming year. Ana plans to practice public interest law.

Claudia Menjivar
Loyola Law School, Class of 2013

Claudia faced early obstacles in her quest to find the "American Dream" that guided her immigrant parents to this country from El Salvador and Peru. She lost her home at age 10 due to family financial troubles and then suffered through her parent’s divorce a short time later. Claudia attended UCLA where she majored in history and was on the Dean’s List for 3 consecutive years. At Loyola, she has earned top grades, while completing externships at Public Counsel, the Western Center for Law and Poverty and The Center for Conflict Resolution. This summer, Claudia will be working at The Housing Rights Project. Claudia wants to practice either housing or education law after she graduates from law school.

Angelica D. Merida

Southwestern Law School, Class of 2013
Angelica was raised in Los Angeles by a large Guatemalan immigrant family. After training in classical and contemporary theater at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, Angelica attended UCLA. She earned a B.A. in Theater and a Latin American Studies minor. At Southwestern, Angelica serves as director of community affairs for the Student Bar Association, board member for the Public Interest Law Committee, and placed 3rd in the 2012 Upper Division Intramural Negotiations Competition. This summer, she will continue her research assistant position with Professor Silvia Faerman in international and comparative trademark law. Angelica plans to practice entertainment and intellectual property law.

Esmeralda V. Meza

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Scholar
UCLA School of Law, Class of 2013

Esmeralda and her four siblings were raised in the Inland Empire by Mexican immigrant parents. Esmeralda graduated from UC San Diego with a degree in sociology and a minor in law and society, while she worked full-time and held leadership positions in Phi Lambda Rho and MEChA. At UCLA Law, she has served as co-chair of La Raza, chief executive editor of the Chicana/o–Latina/o Law Review, education and advocacy chair of the Immigration Law Society, and co-chair of the VAWA Legal Clinic. Esmeralda aspires to become a public interest attorney. Last summer she interned at CARECEN and this summer she is an intern at the Immigration Center for Women and Children.

Rosa Noyola

UCLA School of Law, Class of 2013
Raised in an immigrant household in Santa Ana, CA, Rosa faced many financial challenges, which she overcame by personally funding the majority of her education, sometimes working 60 hours a week. She graduated with honors and cum laude from the University of California, Irvine, where she wrote an honors thesis that examined the underlying rationale of local immigration laws throughout California. Rosa is a third-year law student at UCLA where she is active in the Black Law Students Association and La Raza Student Association. She hopes to practice law in immigration or real estate development.

Yecenia Olmos

UCLA School of Law, Class of 2014
Yecenia is the eldest sibling of a Mexican immigrant family of six. She was raised in South Los Angeles where she lived in an illegally converted garage. Despite struggling to learn English, she became valedictorian of her high school graduating class and was a Bill Gates Millennium Scholar. Yecenia attended UCLA, where she earned a B.A. in Political Science and History and a minor in Chicano/Studies while serving as the community service liaison director for UCLA’s Community Service Commission and the project liaison director for UCLA’s Project Literacy. As a first year law student at UCLA, Yecenia is active with La Raza and the Real Estate Law Association. Yecenia plans to practice real estate, affordable housing, and entertainment law.

Juan F. Palacios, Jr.

Southwestern Law School, Class of 2013
Juan was raised in San Gabriel by his working class parents who immigrated to the United States with dreams of giving their children the opportunity of social mobility through education. A first generation college student, Juan attended California State University, Los Angeles, where he earned a B.A. in Philosophy, co-founded the Philosophy Club, and was published in the Annual Philosophy Journal. At Southwestern, Juan has served as student representative to the American Bar Association and has been elected president of the Student Bar Association for the upcoming year. Juan plans to use his law degree to practice intellectual property law and devote pro-bono work in the area of immigration law.

Penelope Quintero

Loyola Law School, Class of 2014
Penelope's parents are Mexican immigrants who instilled in her humility and the love of learning. Her parents are now U.S. citizens and their struggles to obtain citizenship inspired Penelope to help others facing similar obstacles. Penelope graduated from the University of California, Riverside with a B.A. in Political Science and made the Chancellor’s List and Dean’s List. While at UCR, Penelope became actively involved in P.O.D.E.R. ("Providing Opportunities, Dreams, & Education in Riverside"), an advocacy and support group for immigrant students. Penelope remains active in the organization while at Loyola Law School. Penelope is thriving in law school despite the advent of a life-threatening illness in her family. Penelope has chosen her legal path as a corporate attorney.

Sabrina Rivera

Loyola Law School, Class of 2013
Sabrina was raised by a single mother who struggled to support her family on a factory worker’s salary. Sabrina attended California State University, Dominguez Hills, where she made the Dean’s List and National Dean’s List and founded the Pre-Law Society. She graduated cum laude with a B.A. in Political Science and Chicana/o Studies. Sabrina seeks to graduate from Loyola Law School to serve as an advocate for the immigrant community. In fact, she received the First Honors Award (the highest grade) in her immigration law course. Currently, she is co-chair of the Loyola Immigration Law Society. Sabrina will be working at The Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project in Arizona this summer.

Enrique Rodriguez

Southwestern Law School, Class of 2014
Enrique Rodriguez was born and raised in Southern California. He attended the University of Southern California where he received a degree in business administration and a minor in Spanish. After graduating from USC, Enrique worked in the financial services industry for three years prior to attending Southwestern Law School. Now a fourth-year evening student at Southwestern, Enrique has been active in various law school organizations and honors programs, including the Latino Law Student Association, General Relief Advocacy Project, Student Ambassadors, Law Review and the Trial Advocacy Honors Program. This summer Enrique is working at the downtown law firm Sheppard Mullin and hopes to pursue a career as a real estate attorney following graduation.

Maria I. Rodriguez

UCLA School of Law, Class of 2013
Maria started her life in the United States as an undocumented immigrant in a single-parent, low income household. Maria saw firsthand the hardships that confront those without legal status in this country. Her passion for immigrant’s rights was born of this experience. Maria, now a legal permanent resident, graduated from UCLA where she majored in sociology with a double minor in political science and labor & workplace studies. At the law school, Maria is a member of the Chicana/o Latina/o Law Review, the Immigration Law Society and co-coordinator for UCLA’s Volunteer Detention Center and VAWA Clinic. Maria wants to be a “community lawyer” after graduation – she will get a head start this summer at the National Immigration Law Center.

Jaime Segovia

Southwestern Law School, Class of 2014
Jaime was raised in South Central Los Angeles by emigrant parents from Mexico. After attending Manual Arts High School, Jaime enlisted in the United States Marines where he received various medals including the Humanitarian and Good Conduct Medal. After receiving an honorable discharge from the Marines, Jaime attended Los Angeles Community College while working full-time. He earned an A.A. in Legal Assistant/Paralegal and transferred to UCLA where he earned a B.A. in Philosophy and History. At Southwestern, Jaime served as the historian and is the incoming co-president of the Latino Law Students Association. Jaime is currently working for an employment law firm, which has ignited his desire to become an advocate for workers’ rights. Jaime plans to practice employment law.

Irma Vargas

USC School of Law, Class of 2014
Born in Guadalajara, México, Irma immigrated to this country with her parents in 1994 and was raised in Montebello. Irma graduated with a degree in psychology from the University of Southern California, where she was a Presidential Scholar and on the Dean’s List, while she worked 20 to 40 hours a week to finance her studies. At the law school, she has volunteered at the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice and has used her fluent Spanish to serve as a translator for USC’s Immigration Clinic. This summer, she will work at Bet Tzedek, advocating for low-income, elderly, disabled, or otherwise vulnerable clients. Upon graduation, Irma hopes to continue to defend the interests of Los Angeles’s immigrant communities.

Stephanie Hyland Zacarias

Edison International Scholar
Southwestern School of Law, Class of 2014

Stephanie was raised in Whittier, CA by a single mother who escaped an abusive marriage to offer her children a better life, only to succumb to addiction. She attended Pitzer College and earned a B.A. in Latino Politics and Spanish. During her undergraduate career, Stephanie worked extensively with the near-by Latino community and fought for the fundamental rights of day laborers. In 2010, she was awarded a Fulbright Research Scholarship to Costa Rica to work with the International Organization for Migration. There she continued to advocate on behalf of undocumented immigrants. At Southwestern, Stephanie is the incoming vice president of Latino Law Student Association. This summer she will intern at the National Immigration Law Center. Stephanie plans to practice immigration and public international law.

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