The San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association held its annual Scholarship Fund Gala to award thousands of dollars in scholarships to law students and recognize local leaders within San Diego's Latino legal community.
The association highlighted the importance of supporting its community for the betterment of its future during its scholarship fund gala, sponsored by Union Bank and Gomez Trial Attorneys. Scholarships of up to $7,500 were awarded to 20 recipients last month to further open opportunities and continue their commitment to service and academic achievement.
According to recent bar statistics, Latinos only make up 6% of lawyers in California despite making up 36% of the population.
“We should strive to make that minuscule fraction a much more accurate reflection of the community that we have dedicated our careers to serve,” said co-chair Agustin Peña.
Peña highlighted the resilience and determination of the scholarship recipients: those who became mothers at an early age and worked throughout their undergraduate studies and law school to raise their children; those whose parents worked multiple jobs to make ends meet; those who lost their parents during a critical period in their lives; and those lost loved ones to senseless acts of violence but were inspired to become agents of change for the community.
“We are inspired by your stories and your dedication to the community. We encourage you to reflect on what drives and motivates you, to educate yourselves on the important issues impacting the Latino community, and to continue your commitment to service and academic achievement with the highest level of responsibility, professionalism, and integrity,” said Scholarship Committee Chairs Rene N.G. Stackhouse and Jessica Lujan in a joint statement.
The association awarded five local leaders for their impact, commitment, and dedication to San Diego’s Latino community.
Of those recognized by the association, Hector Jimenez, ESQ. received the 2022 Attorney of the Year Award as he dedicates time to leading the SDLRA Trial Advocacy Program (TAP) to help local high schools establish a mock trial program, introducing students to professional roles models, and prepare them to compete in the San Diego County mock Trial Competition. Jimenez has worked at the San Diego County District Attorney’s office since 1995, where he has presented over 125 jury trials to verdict. He is currently assigned to the Public Integrity unit.
Claudia Ignacio, ESQ. was awarded the 2022 President's Award for her service to the SDLRA board by serving on its membership, Public Relations Marketing, and community service committees, where she supports the organization’s mission of serving the community in need of legal resources. She handles tax planning, compliance, and controversy Issues as an associate attorney at Hone Maxwell LLP.
San Diego City Council President Sean Elo-Rivera received the 2022 Nuestra Familia Leadership Award for working hand-in-hand with the community and creating opportunities for the next generation. Elo-Rivera was elected president of the San Diego City Council in 2021 and was previously elected to the San Diego Community College District Board of Trustees in 2019. As a first-generation college student, he earned a Juris Doctor from the California Western School of Law before passing the bar.
Micheal Perez, ESQ. is the recipient of the 2022 Service to SDLRA Award. He is a past president of the SDLRA, and for the last 3 years, he has served as the Endorsements Chair for the association. Perez has also served on several local nonprofit boards and is a former member of the Stanford University Board of Trustees. He is a partner with Perez, Vanghn& Feesby Inc.
The association awarded the 2022 Legacy Award to Lilia Garcia, ESQ., who is the past President of the SDLRA and founding board member of the SDLRA Scholarship fund. She earned her Law Degree from the University of San Diego School of Law in 1981 and was the first Latino to be hired in the State Attorney General’s San Diego office criminal division She was hired as a San Diego County deputy district attorney in 2013, where she worked until her retirement. Garcia was inducted into the San Diego County Women’s Hall of Fame in 2019 and is a co-founder of Latinas in the Law.
The association was first organized in 1976 to effect change in San Diego by representing the interests of the Latino community, identifying issues that involved the Latino community, and advocating for those issues. The group created a separate charitable arm, the San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association Scholarship Fund in 2007, and in 2012, the organization began the Scholarship Fund’s Bar Stipend program.
Over the last 15 years, the San Diego la Raza Lawyers Association Scholarship Fund has awarded more than $550,000 in scholarships and bar stipend awards.