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Scholars 2014

Nefi Acosta 
Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP
UC Irvine Sc
hool of Law, Class of 2016

Nefi was two months old when his parents emigrated from Mexico to the United States. He spent the first ten years of his life growing up in a two-bedroom, basement apartment alongside his parents and three sisters. Though he faced many obstacles,such as being undocumented, Nefi excelled in school and was the first in his family to graduate from college. He attended Utah Valley University where he earned a B.S. in Political Science, served on student government, and organized an effort that registered over two thousand students to vote. At UC Irvine, Nefi performed 33.5 hours of pro bono service during his 1L year and currently serves as a co-chair of the Latina/o Law Students Association. This summer, Nefi is externing for Judge Stephen Reinhardt in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Maritza R. Agundez 
Manatt Phelps & Phillips Scholar
Southwestern Law School, Class of 2016

Maritza grew up in a single parent household in the Harbor City public-housing projects. Maritza attended Occidental College where she double majored in politics and urban and environmental policy. At Occidental, Maritza organized day laborers and received a research grant to analyze affordable housing policy in South Los Angeles. At Southwestern, she was a teacher assistant for the first-year legal writing course. Maritza has earned numerous awards including the Cali Award for Property, Public Interest Law Grant, Dean Merit Scholarship, and the MABF scholarship in 2013. This summer, Maritza is externing at Community Legal Services in Compton. During the upcoming school year, Maritza will be treasurer of the Latino Law Student Association, vice president of the Labor Employment Law Association, teacher assistant for the first-year Property, and continue as a research assistant for the Human Rights Watch. Maritza plans to write policy that will address the issues that are prevalent in her community.

Brenda Ayon Verduzco 
Cedars Sinai Scholar
Loyola Law School, Class of 2016

Brenda grew up as an undocumented Mexican immigrant who lived with limited resources in an agrarian community in the Coachella Valley. Despite these obstacles, Brenda became high school valedictorian, and it was this recognition that earned her a private sponsorship to attend UC Irvine. While at UCI, Brenda double majored in political science and sociology, completed her honors thesis on the social mobility of Mexican-immigrant children, and was the first Latina to graduate as the School of Social Sciences commencement speaker. As a student at Loyola Law School, Brenda was recognized by the California Bar Foundation as a Girardi | Keese Scholar. This summer, Brenda is working for Los Angeles Supervisor Gloria Molina. Brenda hopes to someday work as legal counsel for national organizations on social justice, immigration policy, or further community contributions through civil litigation.

Patrice Corpus
Loyola Law School, Class of 2016

Patrice and her two siblings were raised in Pacoima by her parents who instilled the importance of education and earning a college degree. She is the first in her family to earn a college degree and pursue a postgraduate degree. Patrice graduated from UC Berkeley where she earned a B.A. in Sociology with a minor in Chican@ studies. While at Berkeley, she tutored inmates at San Quentin State Prison. Prior to attending Loyola Law School, she was a social worker. Patrice is interning at the Children’s Law Center this summer and has been selected to participate in the Juvenile Justice Clinic next semester.Patrice plans to practice public interest or criminal law.

Lauren Fierro 
Latino Prosecutors Foundation Scholar
Southwestern Law School, Class of 2016

Lauren was raised in San Pedro by a single mother. Lauren, who worked full-time to put herself through college, earned a degree in political science from Cal State Long Beach. Six years later, Lauren applied to law school. During her first year at Southwestern, Lauren placed in the top ten percent of her class and received multiple awards, including the Outstanding Brief Writer Award. During her second year, she worked for the Academic Support Program and served as a board member for three student organizations. Next year, Lauren will serve as chair of the Public Interest Law Committee and co-president of the Women’s Law Association. This summer, Lauren is working for the Constitutional Rights Foundation and caring for her sixth month old son.

Elizabeth Franco
Union Bank Scholar
UCLA School of Law, Class of 2015

Elizabeth was raised in Fontana, California by parents who emigrated from El Salvador and the Dominican Republic to seek a better life. Elizabeth was the first person in her family to attend college. She graduated with honors from UCLA with a B.A. in Communication Studies and a minor in civic engagement. After graduating, she was selected for a JusticeCorps Graduate Fellowship at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse where she completed 1700 hours of service. At UCLA Law, Elizabeth is the external affairs co-chair of the La Raza Law Students Association and the chief articles editor of the Chicana/o Latina/o Law Review. This summer, Elizabeth is working at Telemundo Media/NBC Universal as a business and legal affairs intern. She hopes to pursue a career that will allow her to combine her desire to work with Latino communities with her interest in entertainment and media advocacy.

Jeffrey Emanuel Garcia
Sidley Austin LLP Scholar
Southwestern Law School, Class of 2016

Jeffrey was raised in Hacienda Heights by a loving mother and father who emigrated from Mexico in their early teens to provide more opportunities for their future children. As an undergraduate, Jeffrey attended California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, where he made the Dean’s List and was a member of the Mock Trial Team.Subsequently, he attended Claremont Graduate University (CGU) where he earned a Master’s Degree in Politics, Economics, and Business. During his time at CGU, Jeffrey was a teaching/research assistant and was an intern for the Legislative and Public
Affairs branch of the South Coast Air Quality Management District. Jeffrey is currently attending Southwestern University School of Law where he is in the top ten percent of the class and has earned the Witkin Award for his contracts course. Jeffrey is very interested in contract litigation and public interest, specifically immigration law.

Elizabeth Lopez
Loyola Law School, Class of 2015

Elizabeth Lopez was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley by her Mexican, immigrant parents. As the first in her family to attend college, Elizabeth interned for former councilmember Tony Cardenas during college and graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in Political Science. As a rising 3L at Loyola Law School, Elizabeth has worked at the Project for the Innocent where she assisted attorneys in overturning the conviction of a man who was wrongfully incarcerated for thirty-four years. Elizabeth has also worked at the Los Angeles County Public Defender. Her interest in criminal law led her to found Loyola Law School’s Criminal Law Society for which she will continue to serve as president. This summer, Elizabeth is working at the Federal Public Defender.Elizabeth plans on becoming a criminal defense attorney.

Susan Lopez
UCLA School of Law, Class of 2015

Susan Lopez was raised by a single mother in northwest Chicago, where her family struggled through both financial hardship and the mental health issues of her estranged father. Her mother’s dedication to her children inspired Susan to strive for the best in school. She attended the University of Chicago where she was a leader in Summer Links, a program started by Michelle Obama to address social justice issues in Chicago, and earned her B.A. in Sociology all while working full-time at a community medical. At UCLA Law, Susan serves as co-president of La Raza Law Students Association and co-president of the Youth Deportation Defense Clinic. She has also been very active in the UCLA Law Diversity Matters Campaign. This summer, she is clerking at the Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers, focusing on prisoner’s rights work. Susan will practice public interest law and plans to work on immigration and criminal law issues.

Jenecia Martinez
USC Latino Alumni Association Scholar
USC School of Law, Class of 2016

As a daughter of immigrants, Jenecia grew up in Inglewood witnessing the vast privilege disparity that plagues her community. Her background and experiences have motivated her to help disenfranchised communities. She attended the University of Southern California where she earned a B.S. in Public Policy and volunteered for the JusticeCorps court program. At USC Law, Jenecia serves as a first year representative for the Latino Law Students Association and the Public Interest Law Foundation. This summer, she is interning at the Western Center on Law and Poverty’s Housing Unit in Los Angeles where he will help low-income Californians through impact litigation and advocacy. Jenecia dreams of becoming a public interest attorney.

Patsy Martinez 
Mary Agnez Camuñez Memorial Scholar
Loyola Law School, Class of 2016

Patsy was born in Jalisco, Mexico and immigrated with her parents to California in pursuit of a brighter future. Patsy is the first in her entire family to graduate from high school. Despite being undocumented until 2007 and unable to afford tuition at the University of California schools she was accepted to, Patsy was determined to pursue higher education. Patsy attended Cal Poly Pomona University, where she was president of the Kellogg Honors College, treasurer of the Honors Ambassadors Club, and graduated cum laude and valedictorian of her major. Upon graduating, Patsy worked for Neighborhood Legal Services during the summer and was selected for JusticeCorps Graduate Fellowship where she provided legal assistance to hundreds of self-represented litigants. At Loyola, Patsy was elected as secretary for La Raza de Loyola Society. This summer, Patsy is working for the Law Offices of Michael Felix and plans to practice immigration law.

Monique Moncayo
Southwestern Law School, Class of 2016

Monique is one of seven children raised in East Los Angeles by a hardworking single mother. Monique firmly believed that education was the only way out of the world she knew plagued with domestic violence, drugs, and gangs. A first generation college graduate, Monique earned a bachelor’s degree from UC Santa Barbara. Monique is now a rising third year at Southwestern Law School where she was awarded the 2014 Junior Advocate of the Year for her participation in the Trial Advocacy Honors Program. During the upcoming school year, Monique will have the honor of representing Southwestern at trial advocacy competitions across the country while serving as vice president for both the Latino/a Law Students Association and the
Public Interest Law Committee. This summer, Monique is interning at the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Sex Crimes Division. Thus far, her most anticipated and meaningful award is becoming a mother this September .

Iricel Payano 
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Scholar
UCLA School of Law, Class of 2016

Iricel was raised in the Bronx, New York after emigrating from the Dominican Republic with her parents in pursuit of increased opportunities. After overcoming significant personal challenges, including mastering the English language and assuming significant responsibilities in raising her siblings, Iricel went on to graduate at the top of her high school class. As a New York Times Scholar, Iricel attended Columbia University, where she earned a B.A. in Political Science. Following graduation, Iricel joined Teach for America and taught at KIPP Academy Elementary School. At UCLA, Iricel serves as the academic support chair of the La Raza Law Students Association and avidly participates in the Youth Deportation and VAWA El Centro clinics. This summer, she has joined Skadden’s 1L Scholar Program, which will grant her the opportunity to split her summer between Skadden Arps LA, James Perse’s Legal Department, and Public Counsel. After graduation, Iricel plans to practice commercial litigation while maintaining a strong pro bono practice.

Olga Guadalupe Peña
Comcast NBCUniversal Telemundo
USC School of Law, Class of 2015 Entertainment Law Scholar

Olga was raised in the city of Brownsville at the Southernmost tip of Texas. She spent her childhood immersed in the duality of cultures that comes with life in a border town. She attended Texas A&M University where she earned a B.A. in History and Spanish, and also a Masters of Education. She began teaching Spanish at a Title I school in Houston, where she remained for a number of years. For two of those years she coordinated the campus AVID program to help underrepresented minority students attend college and became motivated to go back to school. At USC Law, Olga served as president of the Latino Law Student Association and was a member of the IP and Technology Law Clinic. This summer, Olga hopes to nurture her interest in IP by being a law clerk to the IP counsel at the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office.

LinaMaria Perez
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Scholar
Loyola Law School, Class of 2016

LinaMaria was born in Bogota, Colombia and immigrated to the United States at the age of seven. After struggling to learn English in grade school, she went on to complete three years of French in High School and is now fluent in Spanish, English and French. LinaMaria attended Loyola Marymount University, where she earned a B.B.A in Marketing while working at a plaintiff’s litigation firm and volunteering at Public Counsel. Prior to attending Loyola Law, LinaMaria obtained her Series 7 and 66 and worked at UBS Financial Service in the Private Wealth Management Division. At Loyola, LinaMaria serves as treasurer of the Women’s Law Association, is a member of La Raza de Loyola, and a representative of the American Bar Association’s Day Division of the Student Bar Association. This summer, she is interning for the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission in Los Angeles. LinaMaria plans to practice corporate law and commercial litigation.

Lisette Reynoso
UCLA School of Law, Class of 2015

Lisette was raised in Los Angeles, California. She attended UCLA where she earned a B.A. in Mass Communications and a minor in Chicana/o studies. During college, Lisette volunteered helping low-income tenants fight evictions, which inspired her to pursue a law degree. After college, Lisette completed two AmeriCorps programs, JusticeCorps and City Year. At UCLA Law School, Lisette serves as the community service chair of La Raza Law Students Association and volunteers with the El Centro Legal Clinics as the VAWA Clinic co-chair.

Candace Rodriguez 
Cedars Sinai Scholar
Southwestern Law School, Class of 2016

Candace attended UCLA and majored in political science. A Los Angeles native, she is the first to graduate college in her family. Candace is in the part-time day program at Southwestern Law School and works in the Alumni Relations Office on campus. As a recent cancer survivor, Candace hopes to use her legal education to advocate for patients’ rights. This summer, Candace is working at the Cancer Legal Resource Network to help cancer patients understand their employment rights while undergoing treatment. During the upcoming school year, Candace will serve for the second time as
an executive board member of the Latino Law Students Association and as an executive board member of the Moot Court Honors Program.

Sandra Ruiz
Loyola Law School, Class 2015

Sandra was born and raised in East Los Angeles to an undocumented family that struggles to achieve the American dream because of their permeating fear of deportation. She attended the University of California, Santa Barbara where she studied abroad in Costa Rica and held a leadership positions in student organizations such as M.U.J.E.R. and U.S.E.U. Sandra is a rising 3L at Loyola Law School where she was a member of the Home Base Immigration Clinic inaugural class and will serve as the co-chair of the Immigration Law Society during the upcoming school year. After completing her first year of law school, Sandra interned at C.A.R.E.C.E.N., and this summer is interning at Public Counsel. Sandra plans to practice immigration law.

Patricia Salcedo
Southwestern Law School, Class of 2015

Patricia was raised in the San Fernando Valley by two loving parents who emigrated from South America to seek a better life in the United States. A first generation college student, she graduated from California State University Northridge with a B.S. in Business Administration with an emphasis in business law. While in law school, Patricia has been a board member of the Latino Law Students Association and Immigration Law Students Association. Patricia hopes to practice criminal or family law.

Nalleli Sandoval
Southwestern Law School, Class of 2016

Nalleli was raised in Downey, California by immigrant parents seeking a better life in this country. After spending most of her childhood helping her mother learn English and obtain a master’s degree in education, Nalleli earned her own B.A. in Psychology, Law and Society from UC Riverside. At UC Riverside, Nalleli continuously volunteered at the Student Run Health Clinic. At Southwestern, Nalleli is a member of the Latino Student Law Association, the Women’s Law Association and plans to be a part of the Immigration Clinic in the Fall. This summer, she is externing for Judge Luis O. Márquez Urtubey in Argentina. Nalleli plans to practice public interest law.

Sophia Segura
Southwestern Law School, Class of 2015

Sophia grew up in Michoacan, Mexico and immigrated to the United States when she was twelve years old. As the oldest child, she witnessed her single mother struggle and triumph in raising three children. Sophia attended Loyola Marymount University, where she earned a degree in civil engineering. She worked as water resources design engineer for five years. At Southwestern Law School, she has completed a full-time judicial externship at the U.S. District Court Central District of California. Additionally, she has been a staff member of the Law Journal of International Law. Next year, Sophia will be a lead articles editor and will have her paper on international gene patents published by the Law Journal. Sophia plans to practice intellectual property law.

Marjorie Clara Soto 
White & Case LLP
UCLA School of Law, Class of 2016 International Scholar

Marjorie Soto grew up in Pasadena, California and was raised by a single mother who emigrated from Mexico to seek a better life. After years of living in poverty, dealing with her mother’s deteriorating illness, and raising her two younger siblings, Marjorie went on to graduate as valedictorian of her class at John Muir High School. Marjorie attended Stanford University where she earned a degree in political science, interned at the United States Department of Education, studied abroad in Berlin, Germany, and was a diversity recruitment intern in the admissions office. She now attends UCLA Law School, where she is co-chair of the Education Law Society, editor on the Chicano Latino Law Review, admissions chair for La Raza Law Students Association, MABA UCLA Vice-Chair, and most recently an extern with the Federal Public Defender. Marjorie plans to become a corporate/transactional attorney after law school.

Jessica Vasquez 
Edison International Scholar
Southwestern Law School, Class of 2016

Jessica grew up in rural Mexico and migrated to the United States when she was nine years old. After acclimating to a new country and language, Jessica graduated from Oxnard High School and was the first in her family to attend a university. Jessica attended UC Santa Barbara, where she earned a B.A. in Law and Society. After graduation, Jessica worked as an immigration paralegal and served as a case technician for administrative law judges at the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. At Southwestern, Jessica received the Witkin Award for Academic Excellence and is active in the Latino Law Student Association. This summer, Jessica is externing at the Immigration Center for Women and Children. Jessica plans to practice immigration law.

Heriberto Veliz
Loyola Law School, Class of 2016

Heriberto was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco and raised in Sylmar. After graduating from Kennedy High School, Heriberto attended Cal State University Northridge and earned a B.S. in Finance. While at CSUN, Heriberto served as a site coordinator and prepared tax returns for low income clients through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program. At Loyola Law School, Heriberto serves as academic chair for La Raza and is a mentor for the Young Lawyers Program where he helps high school students prepare for mock trials. Heriberto is also a member of the Home Based Immigration Clinic. This summer, Heriberto is interning at the Los Angeles Superior Court. Heriberto plans to have his own general practice in San Fernando and work closely with his parish to help the low income Latino community.

Manuel Villagomez
Pepperdine School of Law, Class of 2015

Manuel was born in Valle de Santiago, Guanajuato, Mexico and was raised in Oxnard, California. He attended the University of California, Irvine where he majored in cognitive psychology and minored in anthropology. While attending UC Irvine, he volunteered as a mentor with the Mental Health Association of Orange County’s Project Together. As an active member of the Asylum and Refugee Clinic at Pepperdine Law, Manuel served as co-lead counsel on a matter that concluded in a judicial grant of asylum. This summer, Manuel is volunteering as a part-time controller for the Asylum Project, a nonprofit organization. Manuel plans to start his own residential real estate property holding LLC.

Andrew Yep 
Manatt Phelps & Phillips Scholar
Loyola Law School, Class of 2016

Raised in Boyle Heights by a single mother of three children whose career was devoted to social work, Andrew was inspired by the struggles of the Chicano movement to pursue a law degree. After graduating from Roosevelt High School, Andrew worked his way through Pasadena City College and went on to graduate cum laude from California State University, Northridge, receiving his B.A. in Media Arts. He later became involved with the Variety Boys & Girls Club as a youth mentor. Andrew currently attends Loyola Law School, where he serves on the Admissions and Retention committee of the La Raza de Loyola Students Association. This summer, Andrew is providing research assistance to Professor Eric Miller, focusing on oversight of community policing and police hiring practices. Andrew plans to become a trial lawyer and a civic leader.

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