Adelante! Honoring  Hispanic Heritage Month

Latin American Law Student Association (LaLSA) Celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month

National Hispanic Heritage Month Reception

American University Washington College of Law students gathered to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month with a panel of distinguished alumni and a reception following. Scarlett L. Montenegro ’22, Wendy Bonilla ’19, and Jimmy Valenzuela ’20 all spoke about the power of their communities both at AUWCL and at home that have empowered them to reach the heights they have reached.  The panel was moderated by Assistant Dean for Diversity, Lisa S. Taylor. 

The panelists spoke about their experiences as Hispanic students at AUWCL and how they found community through student organizations like LaLSA as well as the supportive faculty. 

Bonilla, who is an associate general counsel at AmeriCorps, spoke about how she was not always a fan of networking but how her time at AUWCL with the support of LaLSA helped her overcome that anxiety.

“LaLSA pushed me to build solid relationships and networks,” she said. “It was my mission to revamp LaLSA and let other students like me know that there is a community for them. There was a slight culture shock of being a 1L in a law school in DC, and LaLSA at AUWCL reminded me I was not alone,” she said. 

Hispanic Heritage Month panel

Montenegro, an associate attorney at Blank Rome LLP who works in intellectual property and technology and general Litigation, emphasized the importance of finding one's community and not losing track of the things that one is interested in. 

“If you don’t talk to your peers and faculty, you never know what they might have to offer and teach you,” she said. 

Abdelkader Achibat, 1L, asked the panel, as they have now stepped into the role of becoming mentors to up-and-coming Hispanic lawyers, how they decide who to take under their wing. 

“Be intentional, be genuine, and be thoughtful,” advised Valenzuela, Washington National Tax Senior at Deloitte. “I always built time into my calendar to reach out to people who inspired me. I made sure to not let them forget about me and not forget about them.” 

Students were enthusiastic to see young professionals with similar backgrounds to their own come back to their alma mater to speak about their challenges and experiences. They said it helps foster a sense of belonging at AUWCL.

Dean Fairfax speaking during the National Hispanic Heritage Month reception

Tania Hernandez, 1L, said, “It was very impactful in my overall view of WCL. Hearing success stories from Hispanic alumni make me feel safe in coming to WCL. As time goes on, I realize that I made the right decision coming here.”

“This place is buzzing with excitement,” Dean Roger A. Fairfax Jr. said at the reception held after the panel discussion. “My vision for this campus is to embrace and emphasize the diversity and vibrancy of our community. The sky is the limit.”

Check out photos and videos here.

Story by Hasini JayawardenaPhotos and videos by Keith Pierce.