2016 3L Diversity Scholars
These 15 new attorneys of color will transform California's justice system.
As a child, Fanna left Sudan and came to the United States with her family after a repressive military regime came to power. A legal aid attorney prepared her family’s application for asylum, enabling her to live in the United States. This experience showed Fanna the power of passionate, effective advocacy, and she went to law school so that she can bring the same sense of hope and dignity to other families and their children. Upon graduation, Fanna will join the East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC) as an Equal Justice Works fellow. Her project protects the education and due process rights of Bay Area youth by providing direct representation in expulsion and delinquency proceedings.
After serving in the Marine Corps for nine years, with deployments to Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, Robert devoted himself to his education and enrolled in law school. At California Western School of Law, Robert has taken advantage of internship experiences demonstrating his commitment to public interest issues. From a criminal law internship at the California Innocence Project to an internship in the civil law sector, it was ultimately his experiences as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) that made Robert realize he would like to practice dependency law. Robert also plans to complete his L.L.M. and return to academia in the future to help provide the next generation of law students with a different viewpoint on diversity in our profession
Allyssa was raised by a single mother, and her family experienced serious economic hardships due to the 2008 economic downturn. Despite these challenges, Allyssa persevered academically. To support herself, she worked during college and in law school. Her life has exhibited perseverance and the ability to thrive in any condition, and now she seeks to provide advocacy and legal service in the public interest. At UC Hastings, Allyssa has focused on local government law and public policy. Through the school’s government concentration track, she helped attorneys provide legal advice to San Francisco and Oakland municipal governments on the possibility of creating a municipal bank for the primary goal of financing public goods like affordable housing, transportation, and locally-owned businesses. Allyssa looks forward to a career in public interest law.
Nicolas’s community involvement displays his dedication to serving underrepresented communities across the country. Before law school, Nicolas worked with the International Rescue Committee, an organization that responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, where he tutored college students from refugee and low-income families that survived the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. During law school, Nicolas worked on voter regulation and issues related to the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. He is currently the president of the Justice and Reentry Society at Thomas Jefferson School of Law. After graduating from law school, Nicolas plans to pursue a position with the Public Defender’s Office or with a criminal defense attorney.
Rena’s family immigrated to the United States from the Philippines. Like many immigrants before them, Rena’s family gained access to opportunities that they did not have access to in the Philippines. This inspires Rena to help ensure other immigrant and underserved communities in the United States have the same opportunities that she has had. Rena worked at the Golden Gate University’s Women’s Employment Rights Clinic, where she served low-wage workers. She saw how much more confident the workers were in conveying their problems and experiences when they have a legal advocate. Rena plans to devote her legal career to serving underserved immigrant communities in rural areas of California.
Tawny immigrated with her mother from Vietnam to Orange County as a young child. Having experienced and witnessed her mother’s economic and familial challenges growing up, it has been personally rewarding for Tawny to use her legal education to provide services and assistance to low-income minority women. In college, she volunteered at New Life Beginnings in Long Beach, a non-profit organization serving homeless pregnant women and their children. In law school, she participated in numerous pro-bono projects, clerkships, and clinics providing legal assistance to low-income immigrant women. After taking the California bar exam, Tawny hopes to work at the Orange County Public Defender's office.
Bianca was born in Lodi, California to a family of Mexican immigrants. Growing up in a town that thrives off of agriculture, Bianca witnessed firsthand the struggles farmworkers endure. She saw her parents work long hours in low-paying jobs to raise her three younger siblings. Bianca became the first in her family to attend college, and she decided to attend law school to help low-wage, immigrant workers overcome injustice. Upon graduation, Bianca will begin her career with a fellowship in honor of Justice Cruz Reynoso that is focused on empowering farm worker communities through immigration legal assistance. This fellowship will allow Bianca to pursue her passion for immigration law and farmworker advocacy, which was her primary motivation in becoming an attorney.
Shavonte’s own experiences in the foster care system cultivated her desire to become an advocate. After graduating from San Francisco State University, Shavonte worked as a case manager for homeless youth and families as well as foster youth. This position showed her how the law can sometimes be a barrier for marginalized people, but that it can also be a powerful tool for systemic change. Shavonte’s public interest law internships also strengthened her desire to become an advocate. After her 1L year, she interned at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles where she assisted low-income residents to reinstate their government benefits like food stamps, Medi-Cal, and cash aid. After her 2L year, she interned at Homebase Center for Common Concerns, helping cities and counties come up with continuums of care to support local homeless populations. Shavonte will begin her career at the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office.
Fighting pressures to wed by age fourteen, Maitria challenged her family’s Hmong cultural norms by graduating college from UC Berkeley, where she balanced a full academic schedule, multiple jobs, and founded an organization called Increasing Political Engagement in the Hmong Community (“IPEHC”). Entering UCLA Law School with no monetary support but her loans, Maitria immediately sought jobs that would pay for rent and enable her to send money to her parents who were both unemployed and struggling with persistent health issues. She has been externing at Public Counsel where she works directly with low-income families facing the same threat of eviction that her family faced. Maitria has achieved incredible academic success despite all of these challenges throughout her life. Upon graduation, Maitria plans to work in legal aid or as a public defender.
Evelyn and her family fled from a small town in Mexico to escape domestic violence. She was raised in a low-income Mexican-American neighborhood in Pacoima, California. Growing up in a poor, monolingual Spanish-speaking, immigrant community, she saw the limitations of the legal system in assisting those whom it impacts the most. Evelyn is the first person in her family to graduate from college and to attend graduate school. She supported her mother throughout college by working full-time, and she also worked part-time while in law school. Upon graduation, Evelyn will work at the Bay Area Chapter of Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC-United) in Oakland. She will represent low-wage workers of color and will advocate on their behalf at the City of Oakland and the California Labor Commission.
Liliana was raised in the Central Valley, in a family of farmworkers with little means. Embracing her parents’ values of self-respect and hard work, Liliana went on to succeed academically. During law school, Liliana helped provide direct services to immigrant families and translated legal resources for monolingual Spanish communities. As an attorney, she will continue on the path of advocating for those living in uncertainty, poverty, and fear so that they too can take control of their dreams and aspirations. Liliana plans to use her law degree to serve low-income individuals in the Central Coast region (e.g. Santa Cruz, Monterey, or Salinas). She plans to devote her career to addressing issues affecting vulnerable communities.
Geneva will graduate from UCLA School of Law with a specialization in Critical Race Studies and the Public Interest Law and Policy Program. Her past work experience while in law school has been focused in serving Native communities and environmental protection. Each job has helped build her legal analysis skills and added to her drive in pursuing a public interest career that intersects environmental protection and Native issues. After taking the bar exam, Geneva plans to work with the Wishtoyo Chumash Foundation in Ventura, California. She will work on litigation cases protecting the Chumash people's cultural resources and environment.
In 1988, Nefi’s family boarded a Greyhound bus from Mexico to Utah. He worked full-time while attending college, and in 2011, Nefi became the first member of his entire family to earn a college degree. As an immigrant, Nefi became very aware of the many injustices facing people of color. He grew tired of seeing Latinos being taken advantage of by employers and living in constant fear. Thus he decided to pursue a career in public interest law, specifically in impact litigation. During his time at UCI Law, Nefi has earned high grades and volunteered in several pro bono projects. He helped migrant union members apply for United States citizenship, taught Latino high school students about law, and helped a victim of domestic violence file a U visa application. Upon graduation, Nefi will clerk in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California for the Honorable Thelton Henderson.
Olivia grew up as a daughter of immigrants from Mexico who struggled through poverty, hardship, and discrimination. For a great part of her childhood, she and her parents shared a bedroom in a single family home located in a gang infested neighborhood in east side San Jose that they shared with five other families. To make ends meet, her parents worked odd jobs. Prior to law school, Olivia worked full-time to support her parents and three brothers. Despite these extreme economic challenges, Olivia persevered academically. She is driven to build a career in criminal justice. After completing the bar exam, Olivia will begin a position with the Santa Clara District Attorney's Office.
Sonia’s parents worked long hours in multiple, low-wage jobs to provide for her and her brothers, instilling in her the importance of education and a strong work ethic. Sonia became the first in her family to earn a college degree. She decided to attend law school to improve her family’s quality of life and become a strong advocate for underserved communities. Through volunteer and work experiences, Sonia has served students of color, homeless individuals, LGBTQ individuals, persons with HIV/AIDS, domestic violence survivors, and immigrant youth. Upon graduating from UCLA School of Law, Sonia plans to provide direct immigration legal services and contribute to advocacy work on immigration and labor issues.