2011 Recipients

Camille Edwards – 2L University of San Diego School of Law (Luce Forward Scholarship Award)

California State University, Fullerton – B.A. Accounting
High academic achiever dedicated to community service. After earning two associate degrees at Chaffey College with honors, Camille went on to graduate cum laude with an undergraduate degree in accounting at California State University, Fullerton. This was all accomplished while Camille was working several part-time jobs due to her family’s inability to assist her financially. Today, Camille continues to excel academically at University of San Diego Law School while serving as the chair for Pro Bono Legal Advocates (PBLA), providing pro bono legal services to the San Diego community. As a certified tax preparer, Camille also volunteers at Volunteer Income Tax Association (VITA) providing free income tax preparation to low-income families. After graduating from law school, Camille wants to continue providing pro bono legal services and continue working with charitable organizations such as VITA.

Alexander Chavez- 2L U.C.L.A. School of Law (Juan E. Zuniga Scholarship Award)

San Diego State University –B.A. Intl. Business and Economics
Merging financial acumen with social consciousness. Alexander was born in San Diego and raised in City Heights. He was raised by a single mother who worked as a housekeeper. Alex worked during high school to assist his family and was in danger of becoming a dropout. Alexander graduated S.D.S.U. summa cum laude with a double major in international business and economics. In college, Alexander reconnected with his father who had suffered brain damage and contributed financially to his father’s care. Alexander also led his Latino fraternity to assist members of the Latino community to assist children with health care, to register vote, to promote the value of higher education, and to offer financial literacy programs. Alexander was admitted to the Executive Fellowship Program with the State Treasurer’s Office where he worked on a college savings plan program targeted to low and middle income families in California. At U.C.L.A., Alexander is the recruitment co-chair for the La Raza Law Students and is coordinating the For People of Color Law School Admission Workshop. Alexander is also in the U.C.L.A. Riordan M.B.A. Fellows Program. Alexander plans to work as counsel of a multinational firm or with a law firm in the area of mergers and acquisitions.

Susana Beltrán – 3L Thomas Jefferson School of Law

University of California, San Diego –B.A. Political Science/International Relations
Empowerment through Example– Something within Susana Beltrán prevents her from being complacent. To the contrary, Susana’s educational and professional arc – although just in its incipient stages – shows a young woman who is dedicated to her community and who is willing to blaze trails to create new paths for herself and other who might follow her. Susana is a native of Orange, California and obtained her B.A. from U.C.S.D. in 2004 concentrating in Political Science and International Relations. Susana obtained a paralegal certificate from U.S.D. in 2005 and moved to Seattle to work in a criminal defense firm. While in Seattle, she formed and chaired the Legal Support Staff Committee of the Latina/o Bar Association of Washington and volunteered at the Free Legal Clinic for El Centro de la Raza. In addition, Susana was recognized with the Boeing Seafair Community Events Innovative Aware in May 2008 for a presentation on “Notario” Fraud. In 2009, Susana enrolled in St, Thomas University School of Law in Miami where she worked on the Intercultural Human Rights Law Review and was placed on the Dean’s List in 2009. After moving back to San Diego in 2011, she interned for the Hon. Yvonne Campos of the San Diego Superior Court and clerked for the San Diego Office of the Public Defender. She is also the Community Service Chair of La Raza Law Student Association at Thomas Jefferson School of Law.

Teresa Gutierrez – IL Thomas Jefferson School of Law

University of Southern California – B.A. Psychology and Spanish
Overcoming obstacles to achieve a better future. Teresa, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, born and raised in San Pedro, is the first in her family to graduate from college and pursue a professional degree. She developed a strong work ethic at a young age and worked to pay for her school supplies and clothing. At U.S.C., Teresa tutored needy elementary school children in mathematics and English. She also participated in beautification projects and in support groups for battered women at the Casa de Rosas Sunshine Mission for Women in Los Angeles. Teresa also worked with the National Association for Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) to assist Latinos to vote. After graduating from U.S.C., and prior to law school, Teresa headed to Washington D.C., where she worked as a staff assistant in the Officer of Senator Edward M. Kennedy on issues related to immigration, refugees and border security, as an executive assistant to Congressman Xavier Becerra. At Thomas Jefferson, Teresa has achieved academic excellence placing in the top 20 percent of her class, and was selected as a member of the Moot Court Honor Society, an outstanding achievement for a first year law student.

Raúl Macías – 2L University of San Diego School of Law

California State University, Sacramento – M.A. Public Policy and Administration
University of California, Los Angeles – B.A. Political Science
Perseverance despite being mugged and stabbed. Born and raised in San Francisco, Raúl was mugged and stabbed in Paris while studying abroad. Despite surgery and hospitalization for eight days, Raúl persevered with his schooling and refused to take the semester off even though he was weak and anemic from blood loss. After finishing UCLA with honors, Raúl found his passion for public interest work while working for California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform. After his first year of graduate school, he took a leave of absence to work on the Obama for America campaign. Subsequently, Raúl worked at a public policy think tank called the California Budget Project focusing on improving the economic and social well-being of low and middle income Californians, and with the Greenlining Institute in Berkeley. Raúl has also worked with Disability Rights California, AARP, and the Legal Services of Northern California – Health Rights Hotline. Raúl’s goal as an attorney is to continue his advocacy on behalf of low-income Californians.

Samantha Morales – 1L Thomas Jefferson School of Law

University of California, Davis – B.A. Psychology and Chicano Studies
Overcoming hardship and striving to help others. Born in Guanajuato, Mexico, Samantha was brought to the United States at the age of six. Not speaking any English, Samantha’s early school years in the U.S. involved considerable hardship. The difficulties in her youth were compounded by the tragic death of her mother and having a father whom she never knew. Her affliction with diabetes made matters even worse. Samantha, however, persevered and went on to complete a double major in psychology and Chicano studies at University of California, Davis. Today she is a wife and mother of two who is dedicated to assisting less fortunate Latinos. She has volunteered with food drives, and the promotion of scholarships for underprivileged youth. She has also served in various public service jobs assisting underprivileged children and families. After attaining her law degree she wants to continue being a leader and advocate for those in need.

Ashley Negrette – 2L California Western School of Law

University of California, Los Angeles – B.A. Intl. Development
Assisting “those who suffer in silence.” Ashley was born in Salt Lake City, Utah to Latino teen parents who were divorced when Ashley was two years-old. Ashley credits her mother with encouraging her to excel academically. Ashley is the first person in her family to avoid being a teen parent and to attend college. Ashley decided to attend law school so that members of the Latino community should not feel helpless and vulnerable before the law. Ashley personally experienced this when her friend’s mother was charged with conspiracy to commit murder and the mother did not understand her fundamental criminal rights. At California Western, Ashley has worked as an immigration intern at the Employee Rights Center in City Heights. Ashley has also worked as a court-appointed special advocate in the Voices for Children Program. Ashley has volunteered with the La Raza Law Students Association at the El Faro Orphanage in Tijuana, and with Proyecto de Casas Saludables to empower persons to become leaders in the Latino community.

Elysia Tilley – 3L University of San Diego School of Law

Loyola Marymount University – B.A. English
Relentless defender of the needy. Elysia was born and raised in Whittier. Elysia has always dreamed of becoming an attorney. When she was eleven years-old, the uncle with whom she was extremely close was shot and killed. Months later, her mother woke up unable to feel the left side of her body and was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Elysia has always valued her Mexican heritage and supported the Latino community. At the age of nine, Elysia began ballet folkorico and continued dancing throughout high school. In Michoacan, Elysia performed before the Mexican Minister of Culture. During college, Elysia made several community service trips to Tijuana with “De Colores.” At the University of San Diego School of Law, Elysia has served at secretary, and currently serves as the co-president, of the La Raza Law Student Association. Elysia is also on the National Mock Trial team and has received an academic scholarship. Elysia is a certified legal intern with the San Diego County Public Defender’s Office. She is fulfilling her life-long goal of becoming a public defender.

Kim Vega-Carter—3L Thomas Jefferson School of Law

Sand Diego State University—B.S. Business Administration
Paving her Own Way – As the first in her family to pursue higher education, Kim had to create her own path toward success. She lacked mentors to help her with the college admissions process, with obtaining financial aid, and with college curriculum. Kim has used the lessons she learned to implement mentorship programs at the elementary, high school, and college levels. Her vision of success is not limited to her own career in law but also encompasses the recruitment of minorities in leadership, business, and professional positions. Her Mexican and African-American heritage allows her to reach out to a variety of minority groups. In December, Kim will graduate in the top 10% of her law school class, an achievement she shares with her husband and their two daughters.