2016 Los Angeles Immigration Lawyer Scholarship Award Winner

We are proud to award the 2016 Los Angeles Immigration Lawyer scholarship to Melissa Candell, a student at the University of California, Berkeley. Melissa deserves recognition for her outstanding academic record. And by overcoming obstacles and helping others, Melissa’s story reflects the values and attributes that the immigration lawyers in our office strive to achieve. Melissa told me that she’s considering a career in law or policy, and we hope that our scholarship helps her reach her goals.

2016 Los Angeles Immigration Lawyer Scholarship Award Winner

You can read more about Melissa’s journey in her supporting essay here:

“In 2001, overwhelming circumstances in my homeland, Ecuador, caused my mother and me to immigrate to the United States in search of better opportunities. Our transition into this country brought unexpected struggles that came with the stigma of being undocumented. Financial burdens have forced us to rent a room in a stranger’s crowded home; not having access to a car forced us to make use of public transportation to meet every day necessities; and lacking a valid social security number forced us to endure maltreatment from employers who took advantage from our undocumented status. Despite the struggles that my mother and I encountered, I chose perseverance over self-victimization, and reluctant to dwell over the obstacles we faced, I chose to remain optimistic and dedicate my time to community involvement.

While in college, I learned about the rights and resources that I have as an undocumented, first-generation college student, and I used this information to encourage high school students to not limit their aspirations due to their legal status. Because I understood the hardships that these students faced, I participated in the creation of a support group for undocumented high school students, the Bright Prospect Dream Team – a branch of the non-profit organization, Bright Prospect. Through this group, I informed parents about their children’s college opportunities and spearheaded fundraisers to assist low-income families pay for Deferred Action. My personal experiences as an undocumented student, my determination, and the ideology that no student should feel discouraged from pursuing an education were my driving force to ensure the success of this support group. As a child, my mother taught me to always help those in need, and being able to use this lesson to contribute to the success of others, made me proud of the woman I had become; a strong-minded Latina devoted to inspire students to pursue their dreams, regardless of their immigration status.

When I compare my life to how things were when I first arrived to this country, I feel proud of the woman I have evolved into. I have managed to remain optimistic through my hardships, and, instead of dwelling in my sorrow, I used my energy to serve others in whichever way I have been able to. My community involvement has been strongly influenced by my immigration status. Although being undocumented has presented many struggles in my life, there has not been an obstacle severe enough to keep me from advocating for immigrant rights and informing the undocumented community about the resources available to them. I am a passion-driven Latina who believes that with hard-work and resilience, anything can be accomplished, and I will continue to wholeheartedly devote all of my energy to serving, representing, and advocating for immigrant rights.”

Congratulations, Melissa! We appreciate what you’ve been through and are impressed with your accomplishments. We wish you great success in college and beyond.

Finally, we received so many deserving scholarship applications! We wish we could have given out scholarships to so many others. We’d like to personally thank everyone who applied who took the time to submit an application.

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