The Association of Latin American Law Students at Rutgers Law School in Newark held its annual Fiesta con Sabor scholarship fundraising event and honored two graduates from Rutgers Law School.
Iliana Santiago ‘2000, a senior staff attorney at Brooklyn Defender Services, who was a member of the Black Law Students Association and the Association of Latin American Law Students while at Rutgers Law School. She has worked at numerous social justice agencies, including the HIV Law Project and Immigration Legal Resource Center.
She challenged law students to fight injustices they see in the world, a call that is particularly strong under the current administration. ”This is an amazing time and you are amazing people,” Santiago said. “You actually have the opportunity to change events.”
She encouraged the law students to maintain Rutgers Law School’s long tradition of activism and social justice work, “You have the opportunity to say I did something too.”
Honoree Melinda Colon Cox ’07, is a partner at Parker, Ibrahim & Berg LLC in Somerset, who represents national banks and financial institutions, mortgage lenders and servicers, and small and large businesses with an emphasis in commercial litigation, contested foreclosures, consumer finance and protection, and state and federal regulatory compliance.
She encouraged the law students by telling her own story of being the first in her family to go to college and to law school, “Sometimes we have to work a little bit harder to get where we are. It’s really that hard work and dedication that’s made us the person we are today.”
Cox told the students to be true to themselves, follow their own instincts and build a common ground among people, “Be a voice for those who need your spirit. There is no profession more honorable than the law.”
Carlos Bollar ’97, the immediate past president of the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey, talked about the need for Latino attorneys and how underrepresented they are in the work force. He said law firms are recruiting talented Latino lawyers and clients who are Latinos want to hire attorneys who “look and sound like you” he said to the audience of law students.
He urged the law students to connect with the practicing lawyers and judges at the event, to network with them, and in turn, to mentor others, “You have the tools, you have the talent and we’ve got your back.”
Santiago, Cox and Bollar, all attended Rutgers Law School in Camden.
Assemblywoman Annette Quijano '91, read a proclamation and U.S. Senator Cory Booker sent a video greeting. Arlene Quinones-Perez '09, current HBA President, also spoke briefly.Co-Presidents Roger Castillo and Bryan Sanchez welcomed guests to the event, which featured music and a catered dinner.