Students honored during Hispanic Heritage Month

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 On hand for the presentation ceremony, left to right: Lydia Gutierrez, Monica Navarro, Judge Maria Oxholm, Marc Vezina, Judge Patricia Perez Fresard, Ulises Macias Robles, and Belem Morales.

LEGAL NEWS PHOTO  BY JOHN?MEIU

By Debra Talcott
Legal News

October 6 will be remembered fondly by Cooley Law School students, Ulises Mario Macias Robles and Belem Morales, the first recipients of the Navarro-Vezina Scholarship.  The two received their scholarships when the Hispanic Latino Law Society of Cooley Law School and the Hispanic Bar Association of Michigan came together to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month at El Barzon Restaurant in Detroit.

The Navarro-Vezina Scholarship was established by Cooley Law Professor Monica Navarro and her husband, attorney J. Marc Vezina of Vezina Law, PLC.

“Our goal is to promote diversity within the student body at Thomas M. Cooley Law School and within the legal profession in Michigan by providing financial support to enrolled Hispanic and Latino students and to attract the enrollment of additional such students,” says Navarro.  

Selection is based upon candidates’ intellectual ability, financial need, participation in Cooley-sponsored events, relevant volunteer activities, relevant life and work experience, work ethic, and desire to achieve.  Candidates must demonstrate that they are people of character who will be an asset to the legal community upon graduation.

“Mr. Robles stood out among the list of qualified candidates due to his deep involvement in the Hispanic Latino community in the Detroit area,” says Navarro. “He is a native of El Salvador, an upperclassman at Cooley’s Auburn Hills campus, and a veteran of the U.S. military.”

Robles is the current president of the Hispanic Latino Law Society, and he has worked on numerous pro bono matters that benefit underserved communities, including immigration and troubled youth outreach programs. His selection carries a substantial scholarship prize that was awarded from the endowment of the Navarro-Vezina Scholarship Fund.

“I was speechless when I heard I was one of the recipients,” says Robles. “It feels like I’m walking on the tracks of some very successful Hispanics, and I’m honored to carry on our culture and tradition. I will work hard and do my best to be

a great ambassador to Hispanics everywhere.”

Robles plans to begin his law career in criminal defense; eventually, he would like to become a prosecutor.  He is also attracted to the field of immigration law and hopes to devote some of his time in that area as well.

Cooley Law School also named Belem Morales as this year’s second-place scholarship recipient for her notable pro bono work in immigration and family law projects.

“Ms. Morales is a first-generation U.S. born Mexican-American and an upperclassman at 

Cooley - Auburn Hills.  She, too, has a significant track record of service, which includes externships with the Washtenaw County Public Defender Clinic in Ann Arbor and the Legal Aid and Defender Association in Detroit, as well as pro bono work in immigration and family law projects,” says Navarro.

“I feel very honored to have been selected as a recipient of the Navarro-Vezina Scholarship and to have been recognized by such a distinguished group of individuals,” says Belem Morales, who has one more semester of law school to complete before taking the Michigan Bar next summer.  “I plan to start a solo practice in criminal law and immigration law, and I will show my gratitude for this scholarship by continuing to help the Latino community and by demonstrating a commitment to community service.”

Both scholarship recipients intend to practice law in Michigan, where they will continue their commitment to service of the Hispanic Latino Community.

“Mr. Robles and Ms. Morales embody the best of the Hispanic Latino Commu-

nity at Cooley and beyond, and they are two of the many reasons for celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.

Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 through October 15 each year to acknowledge the contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central Ameri-

can, and South America.  The celebration began in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week during the Johnson presidency and was expanded by President Reagan in 1988.

September 15 was chosen as the start of the annual celebration because it is the anniversary of independence for the Latin American countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua.  Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days during September as well.

In addition to witnessing the awards ceremony, participants at the event enjoyed speeches by several distinguished leaders from the Latino Community in Michigan. Judge Patricia Perez Fresard of the Wayne County Circuit Court Civil Division, Judge Maria Oxholm of the Wayne County Circuit Court Family Law Division, and entrepreneur Lydia Gutierrez, president of Hacienda Mexican Foods, addressed the current state of Hispanic residents of Michigan.

Donations to the Navarro-Vezina Scholarship are welcome and are tax-deductible.  Checks should be addressed to Thomas M. Cooley Law School Navarro-Vezina Scholarship.  Donations should be mailed to the attention of Associate Dean James Robb at Cooley Law School,  2630 Featherstone Drive, Auburn Hills, MI 48236.