2010 Recipients

 

Dianne Anderson 2L University of San Diego

University of California, San Diego –B.A. Political Science
Overcoming Obstacles with a Positive Attitude – As a child, Dianne remembers
watching “Corte del Pueblo” a Spanish version of the People’s Court and knew she
would someday be a lawyer. She was born in Hayward, California to a Nicaraguan
mother, who had been granted asylum in the United States during the Nicaraguan
civil war of the 1980’s. Having seen her mother struggle to assimilate in a new
country and learn English, Dianne understands the plight of immigrants. So it’s only
natural that as a daughter of a Nicaraguan aslyee, she would be drawn to help
immigrants. This past summer, as a law clerk with Jewish Family Service of San
Diego, Dianne assisted asylum seekers from China, Iraq, Somalia and Cuba by
preparing them for asylum interviews and court proceedings. Dianne also
appreciates the obstacles of overcoming limitations of physical disabilities. In her
sophomore year of high school she was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid
arthritis (JRA). Her battle with JRA has not dampened her positive attitude and
instead it has strengthened her resolve to assist those who struggle with physical
disabilities. She is bilingual and cherishes her cultural heritage. Dianne wants to use
her legal skills and training to assist immigrants and those who struggle with
disabilities and have experienced discrimination. She is a board member of the La
Raza Law Students Association and a member of the Diversity Committee.

Danaly Barajas – 3L Thomas Jefferson School of Law

University of California, Santa Barbara – B.A. Law & Society
Strong advocate of giving back to the Latino community. Danaly was born in Jalisco,
Guadalajara, and immigrated to the United States when she was one‐year old to
Ventura County where she and her family lived in a farm worker housing
cooperative. Danaly aspires to be a public interest attorney. She currently works
for the San Diego Public Defender’s Office. Danaly has worked previously for the
Santa Barbara District Attorney’s Office and the Employee Rights Center. Danaly is
currently the president of La Raza Law Students Association at Thomas Jefferson.
She is a Moot Court coach and former competitor in the National Latino/a Law
Student Association Moot Court. Danaly is a past Honor Roll recipient and a
member of the Public Interest Law Foundation.

Blanca Flores – 1L California Western School of Law

Sonoma State University ‐ B.A. Political Science & Spanish
Working Mother. Blanca comes from a family of immigrants who labored in the
Sonoma County wine industry. Blanca was the first person in her family to become
fluent in English. At age 16, Blanca was emancipated and graduated college as a
teenage mother. She completed a double major and earned distinction in Spanish
from the Foreign Languages Department. Blanca was pregnant with her second
child during her last semester in college. She has been fully‐employed since that
time to support her children. Blanca assisted Spanish‐speaking clients to search
jobs while she worked as the Bilingual Community Resource Specialist at the
Sonoma County Job Link Office. Blanca has an extensive history of service to the
Latino community, including presenting workshops at the 2010 Cesar E. Chavez
Youth Leadership Conference in Roseville, and to migrant high school students
through California Mini‐Corps. Blanca is a Thurgood Marshall Associate of the
Council on Legal Education Opportunity Program. Blanca has embraced her
Mexican heritage and has overcome adversity with her unyielding faith and hope.

Blaz Gutierrez III 2L University of San Diego School of Law

B.A. University of Redlands, Music & Latin American Studies
Cellist and Activist. From New Orleans, to New York, from Haiti to Buenos Aires from
Beirut to Paris and back to his native Oceanside, Mr. Blaz Gutierrez has sought to
make a difference on a global scale. In spite of myriad challenges while growing up,
Blaz beat the odds to become a global activist both at a grass‐roots level and in the
ivory towers of higher learning. His journey began while at the University of
Redlands, where Mr. Gutierrez was president of the Multicultural Student
Community Center Service Organization, interned at a Haitian orphanage and
interned with a Salvadoran civil society in Buenos Aires. Upon graduation, Blaz
interned with Rigoberta Menchu, set up a Spanish‐language children’s’ book
collection at a New Orleans Public Library and spent four years working for an
international human rights organization in New York. More recently, Blaz has
worked with the Trans‐Border Institute as a research assistant and also a research
assistant to Professor Jorge Vargas on matters of international maritime law.
Finally, Blaz has been involved with Moot Courts and has helped publish several
scholarly notes and articles. In his spare time, Blaz plays the cello.

Natalie Hernandez – 2L University of San Diego School of Law

University of San Diego – B.A. Political Science
Overcoming hardship and pursuing diversity. Born to a migrant worker family in
Salinas, California, Natalie has spent the majority of her life traveling between
Northern California and Yuma, Arizona. She has overcome many hardships,
including a battle with Fabry’s disease, which has caused her chronic pain and
fatigue on a daily basis. In addition to excelling academically, Natalie has dedicated
a great deal of her time to helping less fortunate Latinos, and pursuing the cause of diversity.
Natalie has been a tutor for underprivileged Latino children. She has been active as a member
of the “Migrant Outreach Program” assisting immigrant farm workers in San Diego County.
She is also the co‐chair of USD’s “Battle of the Brains” diversity committee and is currently
working to establish a scholarship fund that will assist diversity students at USD Law School.
Natalie is a true champion of diversity.

Alex Kannan – 2L California Western School of Law

DePaul University – B.A. Industrial/Organizational Psychology
Documentarian of the Undocumented. Alex learned Spanish and French at a young
age and has a strong connection to the Latino communities in his native Chicago.
Alex taught English to Spanish‐speaking immigrants; and prior to entering law
school, he created a documentary about the importance of English‐as‐a‐Second
Language instruction. In law school, Alex interned at the Working Hands Legal
Clinic in Chicago, where he aided Spanish‐speaking clients who suffered workrelated
violations and he promoted an anti‐wage theft legislation that was signed
into law. Alex volunteered with Border Encuentro, a non‐profit organization
dedicated to cultural events and establishing friendships along the United States‐
Mexico border. He also completed a documentary about the border. Alex offered
his services to the Illinois Migrant Project to document the struggle of migrant
workers in Illinois. Alex plans to use his legal education to assist the Latino migrant
community.

Elizabeth Knowles2L Thomas Jefferson School of Law

San Diego State University‐B.A. Fine Arts/Creative Writing; Minor in Spanish
Literature
Persistent, tenacious, and hard working. Elizabeth is the first in her family to
graduate High School and College, and soon she will graduate from Law School.
Born in Cherry Point North Carolina, she was an avid reader as a young girl. At age
17 Elizabeth found herself alone in San Diego. She was a student at Point Loma High
School, but she had no family to turn to and had to enroll in an independent study
program to finish High School. She had two jobs and a small apartment that she
alone paid the rent on. She rode her bike to school and to work. She finished High
School, enrolled at Mesa College, continued working two jobs, and transferred to
San Diego State University. Due to the influences all around her, she was
determined to become a fluent Spanish speaker. She regularly crossed the border
into Mexico to conduct research on the art and culture of Mexico. Her interest and
research took her to the indigenous areas of Panama, Peru, Colombia, and
Argentina. Elizabeth became fluent in Spanish, and upon graduation from SDSU,
she taught English immersion classes at Encanto Elementary School, and ESL at the
English Language Institute at UCSD. She is a mother to her 4 year old daughter,
Azalea. She is the current President of the Public Interest Law Foundation at
Thomas Jefferson School of Law; she is presently a legal intern in the
unaccompanied minors program at Casa Cornelia Law Center and has also interned
at the California Innocence Project at Cal Western Law School.

Anthony Michael Medina – 2L California Western School of Law

University of San Diego – B.A. English and Political Science
Giving Back through Community Service. Born and raised in Chula Vista, California,
Anthony attended local schools, graduating from Hilltop High School and USD.
With strong family roots in the South Bay, Anthony is deeply committed to giving
back to his community. He has volunteered as a mentor for juveniles at San Diego
Juvenile Hall, as an English tutor at the South Sudanese Community Center for San
Diego, and as an undergrad, he was an active and proud member of MECha,
organizing fundraisers and participating as volunteer in projects aimed at helping
underprivileged members of our community. During college, he supported himself
by working full time at Dixieline Probuild while double‐majoring in English and
Political Science. As a Sales Supervisor at Dixieline, he was responsible for creating
and implementing marketing and sales programs for 20‐25 employees and training
new hires. He is currently an intern for the California Innocence Project, where his
bilingual skills allow him to review and translate files of Spanish speaking inmates.
This past summer he volunteered with the ACCESO Capacitacion, a non profit
education program that teaches essential trial skills to Latino lawyers from Mexico,
Peru, Argentina and other South American countries. He has been described as
someone who demonstrates “incredible initiative and strong dedication” to our
Latino community.

Irving Pedroza – 1L California Western School of Law

California State University Northridge – B.A. Political Science
No Dream Left Behind. Irving was born in Guerrero, Mexico. Irving, his mother, and
his brother came to the United States to reunite with his father when Irving was six
years old. During his elementary schooling, Irving looked to his brother for
academic and emotional support. Little did he know, the roles would reverse when
his brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Irving became his brother’s mental
health advocate. His advocacy skills have spilled over to help other members of our
community through his work as a No Child Left Behind Tutor and as a volunteer
with La Clase Magica. Irving’s determination and strength have put him on the path
to realizing his dream of becoming an attorney. As an attorney, he will surely use
his position to make other person’s dreams come true.

Xasha Valderrama – 2L Thomas Jefferson School of Law

University of La Verne ‐ B.A. Political Science
From Adversity to Excellence. Xasha was born the daughter of two teenage
immigrants. Her parents received the equivalent of an elementary school education
and had labor‐intense jobs. Xasha grew up in a low socio‐economic neighborhood in
the Los Angeles area. Many of her peers dropped out of school and fell victim to
alcohol and drug abuse. But with hard work, Xasha was the first in her family to
graduate from high school and college, with high academic marks. While in college,
she interned at the Pomona Superior Court Self‐Help Legal Access Center; the clinic
provides free legal services to the local, and predominantly Latino, community.
Xasha has given her time to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department annual
“Fight for Life,” which benefits the City of Hope’s cancer research. From the
humblest of beginnings, Xasha has overcome obstacles, excelled academically, and
given her time. She is a strong, self‐sufficient Latina who will continue to make her
mark in the community.