CATALINO TAPIA SCHOLARSHIP FOUNDATION
I grew up in Peru and transitioned into the U.S. at the age of fifteen without my parents. My experiences have shaped my social and academic identity inspiring me to attend law school. I am an undocumented, disabled, woman of color from a low-income household. I struggled with homelessness and had to work as a dishwasher and babysitter while in high school to pay for rent and food. I am an advocate for the legal rights of marginalized communities. I will be starting law school next fall at the University of San Francisco, School of Law. I graduated with honors from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a Bachelor's Degree in Legal Studies and Politics. I faced discrimination and injustices; it was really difficult for my family to navigate the legal system. I experienced firsthand what it is to feel invisible and silenced. I am going to legally represent people who like me come from historically marginalized stories. I want to bring visibility to communities that for years have remained systematically silenced by the legal system. I used my struggles as an opportunity to succeed. As a college student, I started a mentorship program for at-risk youth in Santa Cruz. I received the 2018 Public Service Presidential Fellowship Award and worked at the US Senate conducting research on immigration, health, and educational policies. It was a humbling experience to write memos regarding important policy issues affecting low-income communities. After returning from DC, I worked at the Santa Cruz Public Defender once which was my first experience within the legal field. I started to see the loopholes within the system that allow the oppression of communities of color. I have continued my advocacy career working as a community organizer at an immigrant rights organization called SIREN. Last month, I was awarded as one of California Senator Jim Beall's Women of the year. I am currently working as a paralegal at an immigration law rm. I have a resilient force aiming to end visibility for the issues and people I represent.
Last year, I got accepted to law school but my niece Keyla passed away at the Gilroy shooting a week before the first day of class. USF Law Dean’s Susan Freiwald allowed me to defer law school for a year to stay with my family. I am now ready to continue my goal of attending law school. My life experiences allowed me to be fearless in my pursuit of justice. As an undocumented student, I do not qualify for federal financial aid or subsidized loan programs. The money from this scholarship would help me pay for law school expenses. My parents recently arrived in the US and are unable to financially support me. I will be the first one in my family to attend law school in the United States. My life story allows me to have a compelling view of the world around me, and a hopeful vision of the world I aim to fight for. I envision myself graduating from law school and supporting my community.
My hands-on experience as an organizer and advocate has shown me the importance of having access to legal support and a just due process. It is my duty to study the law and master the legal skills to become an outstanding advocate for justice. My social consciousness, critical, and analytical skills make me a great candidate for your scholarship program. Getting a law degree will expose me to a new world of experiences, and provide me with the tools to help my community strive for a better and just future.