By Laurence Kaldor, President of the VCLF
DECEMBER IS TRADITIONALLY celebrated in our community as the season of giving and I can’t think of a better way to wrap up our calendar year than by expressing the thanks of the Valley Community Legal Foundation for your generosity and by sharing the story of our third and final 2017 scholarship recipient.
For most children in affluent neighborhoods, choosing a high school is a relatively routine and banal process. However, for Jennifer Ramos and others who grow up in economically-challenged conditions, the process of choosing a decent school can be daunting.
Jennifer was fortunate to be exposed to civics courses in middle school, an experience that spurred her interest in studying law and government. So much so, that when she graduated middle school, she was determined to brave the often-grueling ninety minute commute to and from James Monroe High School. “The decision to commit to the Law and Government Magnet felt like the hardest decision I had to make at the time because of the hassle of getting to and from school and my intense car sickness,” she says.
Aside from the neighborhood issues of drugs, gangs and crime, as first generation immigrants, the Ramos family faced severe economic adversity all of Jennifer’s high school years. To participate in almost any activity meant fees and costs that she simply did not have. For example, she recalls, “any event that I participated in for speech and debate cost ten dollars each, and when you are in three events, the cost adds up because there are several tournaments every year.”
As much as she loved participating in as many events as she could, her limited finances always posed an insurmountable hurdle. Although she remembers quite often feeling dejected, she promised herself that her financial hardship would never prevent her from achieving her full potential.
Throughout her high school years, Jennifer took advantage of numerous available free educational opportunities, as well as whatever extracurricular activities she could manage to afford, including serving as co-president of the speech and debate team and participating in moot court, where she received accolades for oral arguments presented in front of a panel of active attorneys, and in mock trials, where she acted as an attorney for both the prosecution and the defense.
Additionally, as a future community leader, she also served as a member of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Superintendent Council and as an intern for California State Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian. “Throughout my involvement in these activities, I have learned how the government works, how to write legal briefs, and argue my case. I’ve also written speeches that involve advocacy for legislative action,” says Jennifer. “This year my speech
was about voter suppression, where I actually proposed a legislative solution to Congress.”
Setting her sights even higher, Jennifer is actively preparing for future challenges. “I have been given an opportunity that my parents didn’t have while they were growing up,” she says. “I am already settled in and doing extremely well at UCLA. I will continue to pursue my passions in the legal profession, which will allow me to be a civic leader, giving back to my Valley community, and making a positive difference in the world around me.”
Awarding the three scholarships this year, says VCLF President Laurence Kaldor, “has truly been the highlight of my tenure at the Foundation. Six years ago when I become a member of the Foundation, I was saddened to learn that the once thriving VCLF scholarship program was becoming dormant.
“When I took office in 2015, I insisted that the program be reinstituted to its fullest potential, albeit with the minimal funding and resources at the time,” he says. “With your support we were able to double our scholarship giving in 2017 and I am proud to announce that we are on track to double our scholarship giving again in 2018.”
From all of us at the Valley Community Legal Foundation we wish YOU a happy and healthy holiday season and a most joyous and prosperous New Year!