April 01, 2021

On Friday, March 26, 2021, Catholic Law’s Latin American Law Students Association (LALSA) hosted its 1st Annual Alumni Awards Reception. Students, faculty, and guests joined virtually to celebrate this year’s inaugural awards recipients. Recipients of the LALSA Alumni Awards represent outstanding former Catholic Law LALSA members. The reception aims to celebrate their accomplishments and recognize their contributions to their industries or professions, as well as their service to the community and their continued support for Catholic Law.

Nicolas Valderrama (3L), President of LALSA, welcomed the group and outlined the agenda for the evening’s program. Valderrama was eager to celebrate this year’s award recipients and shared, “It is our hope that through highlighting these leaders in our profession, we can continue to foster strong connections with members of the Latin American legal community in D.C. and beyond.”

Ana Gonzalez (3L), Vice-President of LALSA, then spoke more specifically about recent activity within LALSA—outlining the organization's growth over the last three years. She spoke about the organization’s revitalization efforts, fostering connections with the Hispanic Bar Association of the District of Columbia (HBA-DC) and the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA), and creating “Una Familia” for Latino students on campus. Gonzalez reiterated the importance of mentorship and support for Latino students' academic and professional development and how connection within LALSA helps to further the interests of Latino students at Catholic Law.

The keynote address was given by Catholic Law LALSA alumnus Frank Garza ’86. Garza shared some of LALSA’s history within the greater Catholic Law community, outlining some of the change and ultimate growth the organization saw during his time at Catholic. He also noted how encouraged he feels by the current students and levels of engagement in the organization today. He said, “I am so inspired to see the reactivity that the current organization is going through because it is very important.” Following Garza’s address, the group recognized the inaugural class of award recipients.

Mauricio Claver-Carone Patricia Zermeno Linda Estrada
(From L to R: Mauricio Claver-Carone, Patricia Zermeno, and Linda Estrada)

Dean Stephen Payne presented the Professional Achievement Award to Mauricio Claver-Carone '00. Claver-Carone is President of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) where he chairs the Board of Executive Directors of IDB Invest and the Donors Committee of IDB Lab. Previously, Claver-Carone served as Deputy Assistant to the President of the United States and Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the National Security Council. Professor Joel Alicea presented the Service to the Community Award to Patricia Zermeno ’15. Zermeno currently serves as a Staff Attorney/ Clinical Supervisor at East Bay Community Law Center where she provides legal services to low-income immigrants on a wide range of immigration issues. And last but not least, Professor Antonio Perez presented the Helped Us Find Our Way Award to Linda Estrada ’94. Estrada works as Attorney-Advisor in the Office of the Deputy Commissioner for Trademark Examination at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Estrada continuously gives back to the Hispanic community through her work with HBA-DC and the HNBA and helping grow the LALSA chapter at Catholic Law. Each of the recipients took an opportunity to speak about their professional experiences and to thank LALSA for the acknowledgment.

Following the presentation of awards, Professor Alicea took an opportunity to speak about the new Hispanic Mentoring and Leadership Program that he and Professor Perez are hoping to launch in the upcoming year. Professor Alicea highlighted the importance of mentorship and support for the future success of Hispanic Law students and promised to update the group as more specifics of the program become available. With the time that remained, those in attendance were split into breakout groups as part of LALSA’s networking initiatives.