2009 Recipients

Grace Pineda – 3L University of San Diego School of Law
Grace was the 2009 President of the La Raza Law Students Association at the USD School of Law. Born in Los Angeles, Grace lived eight years in Mexico, as well as in East Los Angeles and the Central Valley of California. Grace is bi-cultural, bi-national, and the first in her family to graduate from college. Grace has interned with MALDEF in Washington D.C., at the Children’s Law Center in Los Angeles where she worked for counsel for abused and neglected children, and at the San Diego Public Defender’s Office in the Juvenile Delinquency Division. Grace has also worked in the office of State Senator Denise Moreno Ducheny. Grace has been described by a law professor as “a very special student who walks the walk.” Grace is making a difference in the San Diego legal and Latino community.

Arlyn Escalante – 3L University of San Diego School of Law
Arlyn was born in San Diego, raised in Chula Vista, and is bi-cultural and bi-lingual. Arlyn’s parents were born in Mexico and many of her family members live in Tijuana. Arlyn traveled across the country to attend Tufts University, just outside of Boston. She used her personal experiences of growing up in a border town to become involved with immigrant rights groups in Boston and Cambridge Massachusetts, where she advocated that various towns should become havens for immigrants. Arlyn has worked at the Casa Cornelia Law Center where she has assisted transgender and HIV positive persons from Mexico to seek asylum. She has also worked in Los Angeles for the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking. Arlyn is a strong voice in advocacy for vulnerable persons.

Carla Galindez – 3L Thomas Jefferson School of Law
Carla grew up in a working class neighborhood in East Los Angeles in poverty and with limited choices. Her parents are from Mexico. After experiencing culture shock at U.C. Santa Barbara, Carla worked for the Admissions Outreach Program to attract and retain minority students. She volunteered as a tutor and mentor at the Isla Vista Teen Center to help under-privileged teens do their homework and prepare for college. Carla worked as a pro bono intern for MALDEF where she was involved with issues regarding immigration raids, voting rights issues, and discriminatory practices in school enrollment. She has worked as a legal intern for the San Diego Office of the Public Defender, a judicial extern to District Court Judge John Houston, as a teacher at Hoover High School for Street Law, Inc., as well as participating in the Women’s Resource Fair, the Revlon Run/Walk for Women’s Cancer, and the student-mentor panel at her law school. Carla has used the legal system for positive social change for Latinos in San Diego.

Beatrice Sky Resendez – 2L Thomas Jefferson School of Law
Beatrice is second in her class at Thomas Jefferson School of Law. She was born in the Bronx to “Newyorican” parents. At a young age, she traveled with her family to Mexico where her father attended medical school. Beatrice has wanted to be a lawyer at a very young age and she plans to practice consumer law. Beatrice is on the law review and published an article regarding the avoidance of products liability by multinational pharmaceutical companies. Beatrice attends law school in the evening after working full time as a judicial secretary for the San Diego County Superior Court. Beatrice has received numerous awards for academic excellence at her law school. She has been inspired by Latina judges in San Diego County, as well as her fellow “Newyorican” Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Beatrice’s academic excellence is a benefit to our legal community.

Hector Bustamante – 3L California Western School of Law
Hector was born in Oceanside but lived in Tijuana until he graduated from college. When Hector was thirteen years-old, his father passed away. His father was an attorney in Tijuana and his inspiration for becoming at attorney. During his senior year in high school, his mother passed away. Hector received a scholarship to attend the University of San Diego. Hector also worked at a car dealership and completed paralegal courses while attending college. Hector worked as a paralegal for a local law firm. After several attempts, he was admitted to California Western School of Law. Hector became academically ineligible, but later returned to law school, and is now a good student. He assists other law students to learn Spanish, has worked for the Community Outreach Program, and competes as an amateur boxer. A law professor has described him as “a well-rounded student and person.” Hector has fought, and continues to fight, to overcome not only his own obstacles but also those faced by our community.

Mayra Gonzalez – 2L California Western School of Law
Mayra was born in Jalisco, Mexico and grew up in El Monte, California. Growing up she had to overcome stereotypical views that can hold back Mexican-American women of her social background. Mayra was encouraged to enter the legal profession after her father had been incarcerated and she realized she did not understand the charges against him or his sentence. Mayra has interned with the American Friends Services Committee assisting Latinos and Latinas with immigration issues, and with the Alternate Public Defender of San Diego. She has also volunteered to tutor and mentor youth at the Boys and Girls Club, and volunteered at the St. Vincent De Paul soup kitchen. A law professor noted her excellence and motivation and described Mayra as someone who “always gives one hundred and ten percent.” Mayra is a self-empowered Latina with a strong desire to excel and give back to the Latino community.

Nichole Mendoza – 2L California Western School of Law
Nichole was born in Stockton, California. She is proud of her upbringing as a Latina and in her Catholic faith. She was influenced by her grandmother, a natural teacher from humble beginnings who also served as a Eucharistic Minister. Nichole’s parents taught her the value of hard work. Nichole’s younger brother has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism. At college, Nichole learned about how certain groups in society faced obstacles in realizing the promises and principles embodied in the Constitution. That includes persons like her brother. Nichole has been a tutor for AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) where she assisted under-represented students attend college. She has worked for the San Diego Volunteer Lawyer’s Program and as a substitute teacher for the Sweetwater Union High School District. Nichole has the courage, conviction and dedication to affect change in the Latino community, including those with disabilities.

Agustin Peña – 1L California Western School of Law
Agustin was born in Aspen, Colorado, and raised in San Diego in a traditional Mexican family. While attending Mission Bay High School, Agustin received a telephone call from his mother telling him that his fourteen year-old brother had been shot and killed in a random act of violence. Agustin arranged his brother’s funeral. Seeing a lack of direction by the youth in his low-income neighborhood, Agustin co-founded a non-profit organization PowerMentor. That organization provides mentoring and tutoring to Latino youth. Agustin has organized community anti-violence rallies, aided the victims of wildfires, and organized trips to Yosemite. Agustin honors his younger brother by mentoring his brother’s friends. He has been a substitute teacher and teacher’s assistant at the Kearny Mesa Juvenile Detention Facility. The Director of PowerMentor describes Agustin as a man of impeccable character and “wise beyond his years.” Agustin is a powerful mentor and advocate for Latino youth in San Diego.

Miguel Marquina – 1L California Western School of Law
Miguel born in Cuernavaca, Mexico, spoke only Spanish when he entered elementary school in the United States. Miguel taught himself English while he attended Orange County schools. He academically excelled and was admitted to U.C. Berkeley. Miguel worked with Making Waves, a non-profit educational organization that helped under-privileged students, primarily Latino and African-American, in Richmond, California. Miguel served as an academic mentor for students from middle school through high school. He also was a service coordinator for Project Access, a non-profit family resource center, located in a primarily Latino apartment complex in Fullerton. There, he coordinated an afterschool program for elementary school children, a teen program, a health and resources fair, and assisted adults with computer and job skills. Miguel continues to make waves by assisting impoverished Latino youth to pursue higher education and families in low-income communities.

Rachel Rawes – 1L California Western School of Law
Rachel was home schooled in Doylestown, Pennsylvania and participated in competitive figure skating. At age sixteen, Rachel became pregnant. Being a teen mother did not deter her from her goal to obtain an education. She was admitted to the University of Pennsylvania where she excelled as a student. As a single mother, she has relied on student loans and scholarships to finance her education. Rachel mentored teen mothers, spoke at high schools about the realities of teen pregnancy and developed a web-site for teen mothers. Rachel has been an employment counselor, a director of a figure skating program, and a volunteer with at-risk minority youth. Because of her own experiences, she is uniquely qualified to contribute to Latino healthy family programs and tutoring of at-risk youth in San Diego. She is described as someone who “has grown from a sixteen year-old pregnant teen to a self-assured woman and competent mother.” Rachel is a role model for facing the challenges of teen motherhood while achieving academic and future legal excellence.