Scholars 2016

Alejandro Castro          Manatt Phelps & Phillips LLP Scholar
Loyola Law School, Class of 2017

Alex was raised in El Sereno to Nicaraguan and Mexican parents. He became interested in law after experiencing discrimination and poverty. While at Loyola, Alex has focused his studies on Intellectual Property. He was a Summer Associate at Robins Kaplan LLP during his 1L summer and is currently there as a 2L. Alex has always enjoyed business. He sold candy on the playground during elementary school, began working at thirteen, and has been a car salesman since high school. He knows that having the ability to represent businesses as a future attorney is a perfect combination of his interests. Alex seeks to serve his community through organizations such as California Rural Legal Assistance and by establishing a scholarship fund for Latino students.

Alexandra Mateus
USC School of Law, Class of 2017

Alexandra was born and raised in Castaic by loving parents who have continuously supported her throughout her education. She was the first in her family to graduate from college and pursue a law degree. She earned her B.A. in Race & Ethnic Studies and Government from the University of Redlands, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. At USC Gould, Alexandra is the president of Street Law, an organization aimed at educating underprivileged students about the law. She is also a board member of the Latino Law Students Association. Alexandra has externed with the Ventura County Public Defender’s Office in both the Adult and Juvenile Divisions since her first year summer. Alexandra plans to become a Public Defender when she finishes law school.

Atley A. Usher, Jr.
Gibson Dunn & Crutcher Scholar
Southwestern Law School, Class of 2019

Atley was born and raised in Belize. He graduated high school as Valedictorian at 14 and earned his Associate’s Degree at 16. With limited opportunities in Belize, Atley immigrated to the U.S. at 17 in search of a better future, leaving his family. As a first-generation college student and role model to four younger siblings, Atley persevered through many trying times. He earned his Bachelor’s of Science in Technical Management from Devry while working full-time. With continued support and inspiration from his wife and 4 year old daughter, Atley started Southwestern’s evening program last Fall, ranking in the top 10% despite balancing family life, a full-time job and a daily 3-hour commute. Atley intends to practice in the area of civil litigation.

Boanerges A. Rodriguez Orellana                
Mexican America Bar
UC Irvine School of Law, Class of 2017          Foundation Endowment Fund Scholar

Boanerges was raised in Los Angeles by his Guatemalan mother. He is the first in his family to go to college and law school. He earned a B.A. in Political Science with a minor in International Migration Studies from UCSD. Upon graduating from UCSD, he worked at the Disability Rights Legal Center for several years. At UCI Law, Boanerges served as a Judicial Extern to the Honorable Fernando M. Olguin and Associate Justice Raymond J. Ikola. He also served as co-chair of the Latina/o Law Students Association and fundraising co-chair for the Public Interest Law Fund. Boanerges looks forward to practicing in the labor and employment context to fulfill his desire to help immigrants and people of color, generally.

Cecilia Herrera
Loyola Law School, Class of 2017

Cecilia was born and raised in Los Angeles by Salvadoran parents who fled their war-torn home country. She is the first in her family to pursue a college and postgraduate degree. She earned a B.A. in International Development Studies at UCLA and received the Chancellor’s Service Award. At Loyola, Cecilia is part of La Raza and will serve as next year’s co-president. She has interned with the Children’s Law Center, a firm dedicated to protecting the rights of abused and neglected children. She is currently interning at San Diego’s Public Defender’s Office. Next year, Cecilia will be part of the Youth Justice Education Clinic and plans to continue advocating for youth as a public defender.

Chantal Renta
           Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Scholar
Southwestern Law School, Class of 2017

Chantal is a member of the Cuban diaspora and was raised in Montevideo, Uruguay.She attended FAU and earned a B.A. in Chinese History. She attends Southwestern Law School and is president of the Tax Law Society, site coordinator for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Clinic, and Editor-in-Chief of Development of the Los Angeles Public Interest Law Journal. She plans to attend a Tax LLM program after Southwestern and hopes to work for a tax think tank or government agency in the future.

Cristian F. Gonzalez           Sidley Austin LLP Scholar
UCLA School of Law, Class of 2017

Cristian was born in Guatemala City and raised in New York City. He is a rising 3L at the UCLA School of Law where he is enrolled in the Public Interest Law and the Critical Race Studies Programs. He is interested in international human rights law. Cristian completed his 1L summer internship at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and will spend his 2L summer at the Center for Constitutional Rights. Before law school, Cristian was employed at the Global Justice Center in New York. He also completed an internship at the EU office of the German Parliament, as well as a Fulbright Fellowship at the Humboldt University in Berlin focusing on refugees. He received his B.A. in History and French from Columbia University.

Erik Alexander Ceja          Edison International Scholar
Southwestern Law School, Class of 2017

Erik is a Southern California native. He earned a paralegal degree before attending CSUDH and earning a B.S. in Marketing. Erik is part of Southwestern’s two-year accelerated J.D. program, SCALE. At Southwestern, Erik served as a student volunteer with the Small Claims Clinic, and as a board member of the Latino Law Student Association. This summer, Erik will serve as a law fellow for Neighborhood Legal Services and help victims of domestic violence. Next school year, Erik will serve as a board member of the Latino Law Student Association, the Public Interest Law Committee, and the Women’s Law Association while also serving as a student leader for the Small Claims Clinic.

Estevan Fernandez          Latham & Watkins LLP Scholar
Loyola Law School, Class of 2018

At the age of 19, Estevan started preparing individual income tax returns with H&R Block in Santa Maria, CA. After working at H&R Block for four years, his many accomplishments included teaching the Income Tax Course, an 88-hour course over three months, and being promoted to office manager of six employees. Estevan also represented a local business owner in an IRS audit and lowered his tax debt from $12,000 to $2,000. Estevan completed his bachelor’s degree in business administration at CSUN. At Loyola Law School, Estevan is pursuing his JD as well as a LLM in tax law. This summer, he will participate in Loyola's Summer Tax Intensive while completing 12 units in two and a half months.

Jackee Montano          Ahmanson Foundation Scholar
Southwestern Law School, Class of 2017

Ms. Montano was raised in Bassett, California. Although her childhood was riddled with poverty, addiction, and gang/police brutality, she found strength in family and community to rise above. After earning a B.A. in Psychology and Masters in Education, she decided to pursue law. At Southwestern Law, she served as president of the St. Thomas More Society and vice president of Teen Court. Next fall, she will be treasurer of the Latino Law Student Association and note & comment editor of the Journal of International Law. She has externed with Public Counsel’s Children’s Rights Clinic and will extern for the Honorable Judge Carol Rose of the Los Angeles Superior Court this summer. Ms. Montano plans to work as a trial attorney.

Jimmy Quintana
Loyola Law School, Class of 2017

Jimmy was born and raised in Los Angeles by a single mother who emigrated from El Salvador to escape the civil war. He is the first in has family to attend college. He began working to support himself through his undergraduate career earning a B.A. in Psychology from the UC Berkeley. At Loyola, Jimmy has served as the graduation chair for La Raza de Loyola and next year will serve as co-president. He has worked with the Immigration Center for Women and Children. Since his first year, he has also been a mentor in the Young Lawyers Program, helping high school students put on a mock trial. Jimmy will be working at the Monterey County Public Defender’s Office this summer. Jimmy plans to practice civil litigation or criminal law.

Lauren Williams
Southwestern Law School, Class of 2017

Born to first generation migrants who settled in the 80s, Lauren was raised in San Pedro and grew up with a passion for the law. A first generation college student, she received her B.A. in Political Science from Cal State Long Beach, and worked full time throughout undergrad to finance her education. As a part-time student at Southwestern, Lauren has served on the Board for the Public Interest Law Committee, Criminal Law Society, and Women’s Law Association. This summer, she will continue working full time in the Legal Department for Ralphs Grocery Company, and beginning Fall 2016, she will serve on the Executive Board of Law Review. Lauren’s professional long term goal is to practice criminal or employment law.

Lourdes Peña
Southwestern Law School, Class of 2017

Lourdes was born and raised in Pacoima and is first generation Mexican-American. She is the youngest of four and is the first to attend law school in her family. Lourdes earned her B.A. in Sociology and a minor in Global Peace and Security from the University of California, Santa Barbara. During her 3L year, Lourdes will serve as co-vice president for the Latino Law Students Association and serve on the board for the Negotiation Honors Program. Lourdes has been awarded the Public Interest Law Grant and will be at the Central American Resource Center for Immigration this summer. Lourdes plans to practice immigration law in the future and open her own practice.

Marina Gatto          Latham & Watkins LLP Scholar
UCLA School of Law, Class of 2017

Marina was raised in the Bay Area by a lesbian mom, and after being the victim of discrimination and hate crimes began to speak publicly and via the media about being raised by an LGBT family. Since she was 8 years old Marina has been involved politically with activism and lobbying for marriage equality. Marina graduated from UC Berkeley where she double majored in Political Science and Ethnic Studies and was co-chair of the Latino Pre-Law Society. At UCLA Law, she is specializing in Critical Race Studies, and has been staff editor for the Chicana/o-Latina/o Law Review, academic co-chair for La Raza Law Students Association and co-chair for the Women of Color Collective. Marina plans to pursue a career in litigation, and will be working this summer at Perkins Coie LLP.

Melissa Romo          Latino Prosecutors Foundation Scholar
Southwestern Law School, Class of 2017

Melissa grew up in Whittier, California where she was raised by her single mother and immigrant grandparents. Being the first in her family to attend college, Melissa graduated from UCLA earning a B.A. in Communication Studies and a minor in Political Science. While at Southwestern, Melissa has been a board member of the Latino Law Student Association, a Dean's Fellow, a member of Law Review and a member of the Trial Advocacy Honors Program. Melissa has received the CALI and Witkin award, Dean's Merit Award, and Best Advocate award. She has previously clerked at the District Attorney's Hardcore Gang Unit and will be working in the Preliminary Hearing Unit this summer. Melissa hopes to pursue a career as a prosecutor.

Melvin Lopez
USC School of Law, Class of 2018

Melvin was raised in Cudahy, California by his parents who emigrated from El Salvador. As a first-generation college student, he received his B.S. in criminal justice and minor in communication from California State University, Long Beach, where he graduated magna cum laude. While at CSULB, Melvin participated in JusticeCorps and volunteered with LAFLA. At USC Gould, Melvin is an active member of the Latino Law Students Association (LLSA) and the Public Interest Law Foundation. Next year he will serve as LLSA’s Judges & Lawyer’s Night co-chair and help organize its largest event of the year. This summer, Melvin is completing a clerkship with LAFLA’s Supporting Families workgroup, focusing on immigration law. Melvin aspires to practice criminal law as a prosecutor.

Michelle Monroy                                 Comcast NBCUniversal Telemundo
Loyola Law School, Class of 2017           Entertainment Scholar

Michelle is the eldest of three sisters, raised in Los Angeles by a single mother who emigrated from Guatemala. Michelle is a first-generation college graduate. She graduated magna cum laude from CSU Long Beach with a B.A. in Political Science. As a 2L at Loyola Law School, Michelle served on the Loyola Law Review and will be published in the upcoming issue. She also externed for the CA Board of Equalization representing low-income taxpayers, and externed for the IRS representing it before the U.S. Tax Court. This summer, Michelle will be working for the IRS Office of Chief Counsel, Corporate Division, in Washington D.C. She plans to practice tax law and to advocate for tax education in low-income communities.

Milene Vega          Cedars Sinai Medical Center Scholar

USC School of Law, Class of 2018

Milene was born in Cuba and has lived in Miami, Florida most of her life. She began working in the legal industry at age sixteen to support herself throughout her undergraduate career, earning degrees in Nursing. She attended law school to merge her passions in law and healthcare. Milene was a 1L representative for the Public Interest Law Foundation and Latino Law Student Association (LLSA). Next year she will serve as the academic chair of LLSA and president of the Health Law Society. This summer, Milene will work as a Judicial Extern to the Honorable Virginia A. Phillips, Chief Judge, of the U.S. District Court, Central District of California. Milene plans to focus her practice in healthcare compliance.

Nathalie Meza Contreras
Southwestern Law School, Class of 2017

Nathalie’s commitment to becoming a lawyer began with her experience in foster care. She plans to practice labor law because it gives her an opportunity to pursue her lifelong career goal without compromising her passion for worker rights. At UCLA, she majored in Latin American Studies and double minored in Political Science and Labor and Workplace Studies. She is a rising 3L at Southwestern Law School and is president of the Labor and Employment Law Association and secretary of the National Lawyers Guild Campus Chapter. Last summer, she worked as the AFL-CIO’s Law Student Union Summer Intern with the CLEAN Carwash Campaign and continued with the campaign during her 2L year. This summer, she will be at Region 21 of the National Labor Relations Board.

Raul Ibarra          Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Scholar
Southwestern Law School, Class of 2019

Raul was born and raised in Northeast Los Angeles by Mexican immigrant parents. After a couple of years of community college he dropped out not knowing what he wanted to do with his life. He returned to Cal State LA six years later and earned his B.A and M.A in Communication Studies with summa cum laude honors, while working full-time. Raul is a current Probate Investigator for LA County and plans to pursue a career in litigation.

Rosio Flores          Mary Agnes Camuñez Scholar

Southwestern Law School, Class of 2018

Rosio was born and raised in Los Angeles County by parents who left Guanajuato, Mexico in search of a better life. She was the first in her family to pursue a higher education and earned her B.A. in Political Science at UCSD in 2008. At Southwestern, Rosio placed as a semi-final oralist for the Moot Court Intramural competition. She is a member of the Latino Law Students Association and has consistently volunteered with CARECEN, a non-profit organization. For her first summer externship, Rosio will be an extern for the Hon. Harry S. Pregerson as part of the Mexican American Bar Association’s Federal Judicial Externship Program.

Sean Flores          White & Case LLP Scholar
UCLA School of Law, Class of 2018

Sean was born and raised all throughout southern California. He began working in high school and continued to do so during his time at Mt. San Antonio College to support his younger siblings after their single mother passed away. After transferring to UC Berkeley, Sean became involved in a number of activities, including Teach in Prison, where he facilitated an undergraduate course on criminal justice and tutored inmates at San Quentin. Sean interned at the White House in 2012 and was also awarded the John Gardner Public Service Fellowship, where he was placed at Advancement Project in Washington D.C. Sean was recently a SEO Legal Intern at Akin Gump and aspires to be a litigator or practice financial restructuring.

Veronica Martinez

Southwestern Law School, Class of 2018

Veronica was born and raised in rural Idaho by parents from Aguascalientes, México. She began working at the age of 14 and worked multiple jobs to support herself during her undergraduate career at Boise State University where she earned her B.A. in Political Science in 2014. While at Boise State, Veronica developed her passion for social justice and became involved in multiple student organizations on campus. Off campus, Veronica worked actively with the Idaho Community Action Network. In the fall of 2013 she interned with the ACLU of Idaho as an immigration fellow. At Southwestern, Veronica received Honorable Mention in the intermural moot court competition. After graduating Veronica plans to practice public interest law and continue to champion social justice causes.

Viviana Arcia
UCLA School of Law, Class of 2018

Viviana immigrated to the U.S. from Cuba when she was six years old. She was the first person in her family to graduate from college. She graduated from Stanford University with a B.A. in Feminist Studies/Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. Following college, she worked at the Prison Law Office to advance prisoners' rights. At UCLA, she’s participated in the VAWA and Youth Deportation Defense Clinics, both of which she will co-chair next year, and the NLG’s Street Vendor Clinic. Next year, she will be the 2L Editor in Chief of the Chicana/o - Latina/o Law Review. This summer, Viviana will be working at the East Bay Community Law Center. Viviana plans to pursue a career in civil rights law.

Zurit Zuray Barajas          Cacique Inc. Scholar
Southwestern Law School, Class of 2018

Zurit was raised in Pacoima, and although it was an under-resourced community, she managed to earn a full-tuition leadership scholarship to UCLA. She was the first in her family to graduate college, earning her B.A. in Psychology. While at UCLA, Zurit was president for Global Human Rights Brigade, serving indigenous communities in Panama. In her first year at Southwestern Law School, Zurit was a class representative for the Latino Law Students Association and a member of Tax Law Society. As a member of Tax Law Society, she assisted under-resourced community members in filing their taxes. This summer, she will extern with the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office in the Hard-Core Gang Unit. Zurit plans to pursue a career in litigation.

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