$10k Scholarship Finalist

In part, I believe that the end of a person’s childhood begins on the day they witness their parents cry for the first time. My childhood ended during the summer of 2006.

Standing in our community bank, my parents were ending a discussion with several lending officers. As the conversation ended, I quickly noticed the poorly hidden tears behind my father’s handshake and the mascara that ran down my mother’s cheeks after we were denied a mortgage. Throughout much of my childhood I never understood the concept of mortgages or the importance of homeownership, yet seeing my parents’ reaction at the bank that day somehow seemed deeply personal to me. It would be years before I understood that we had never truly owned a home and that the summer of 2006 was my first lesson in advocacy.

We would have more visits to the bank in the years that followed, each less frequent and ultimately giving up by the time I started college. As a first-generation minority student, my family’s struggle motivated me to concentrate four semesters on scholarship relating to affordable housing and the diaspora of Latin Americans in the United States. I learned that a combination of discriminatory slippage, congressional inaction on comprehensive immigration reform, and gaps within fair housing laws have rendered the United States unable to appropriately house our nation’s largest proportion of immigrants and national origin minorities. However, I discovered that at the heart of this development endured a passionate legal community critical to correcting the housing crisis and helping minority families like mine navigate the barriers of social justice.

These barriers and my vision of a compassionate society where all people can achieve homeownership led me to volunteer with the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (“RAICES”). For 17 weeks, I interviewed, advocated, and fund-raised along RAICES legal staff and colleagues. As a result, many cases were afforded access to pro bono legal services and guidance on rent to own housing units. I was six years old when my childhood ended – those that I tried to help never had one. Volunteering in that position was a privilege and gave me the confidence to believe that with my law degree one lawyer can profoundly change the world of others.

This exposure to how legal advocacy can help people overcome challenges that stand in the way of basic opportunities bridged the gap between my childhood experiences and newfound passion for fair housing, immigration reform, and social/racial justice issues. The One Lawyer Can Change The World Scholarship would provide me with the financial flexibility to pursue similar causes like RAICES while in law school with more peace of mind. If anything, those families taught me to move beyond my financial boundaries and find trust in the pursuit of advocacy.

So, to my mother and father – save your tears. I will continue to empower and equip immigrant communities and families like ours as we grow closer towards equality. One home at a time, beginning with mine.

Soon after I am awarded my legal degree, my initial goal will be to complete and pass the Uniform Bar Exam so that I may begin working directly with clients who have waited far too long for assistance. Other short-term goals include working as an associate for a large Houston area firm with preeminence in advocacy, real estate, and commercial law. While working with private business and economic law firms in the greater Houston area, I hope to connect with leaders in the development of policy at the state level, promote legal equality, and gain the education of a diverse and fair law practitioner. One passionate long-term goal of mine includes creating a bi-annual scholarship fund for first-generation prospective law students from my community in Central Texas.

South Texas College of Law Houston is situated in the 4th largest city in America, sharing a home with nearly 2.5 million people across 655 square miles. Located in the heart of downtown, just minutes away from courthouses, major international law firms, corporations, and legal service providers students like me have the kinds of opportunities they need to begin pursuing a successful legal career immediately after graduation. This multitude of opportunity to engage in public service was a major consideration when deciding to attend.

In life you will realize there is a role for everyone you meet. God has showed me creative ways to encourage and build up the people around me; my Mother and Father have loved me unconditionally; the attorneys and staff I work with have mentored me; my loved ones have supported me; and my skeptics have only motivated me to prove them wrong. To each I sincerely say thank you.

Every story has two versions – one seen and the one unseen. On paper I am a college graduate with experiences that should put me in a privileged position to achieve success. What is not seen are the burden of student loans, looming fear of failure, and navigating the unknowns.

For many students like me our experiences in higher education may sometimes feel disconnected from the experiences of others because of our low-income background. Receiving the One Lawyer Can Change The World Scholarship would confidently remove this disconnection form my law school experience and allow me to do more of what I love at South Texas College of Law Houston – free from worry or guilt.

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