Maria Palomares '09 Earns Prestigious Award from Western Center on Law & Poverty
On June 25, Southwestern alumna Maria Palomares '09 was honored as the 2014 Fair Shake Rock Star by the Western Center on Law & Poverty for her work as a civil rights advocate. Palomares is a Housing and Consumer Law Attorney for Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County. In her position, she works to preserve affordable housing, and fight housing discrimination based on race, language barriers or disability.
"It's a very humbling experience to receive such an award for fighting against injustice," Palomares said. "Being able to help low-income clients who are in the same or worse positions than I was when I was growing up is amazing."
When she was a student, she participated in the Street Law and Children's Rights Clinics. This gave her a lot of hands on experience, to really put into practice those legal skills she was learning in her courses. "In the Children's Rights Clinic, we were able to interview clients, represent them at hearings and prepare due process motions, which most individuals aren't able to do until much later in their career," she said.
Associate Dean Julie Waterstone, Director of Southwestern's Children's Rights Clinic, said that she knew Palomares was going to bring something special to the legal profession. "When I first worked with Maria in the Children's Rights Clinic, it was apparent that she was going to be an incredible lawyer," Dean Waterstone said. "She quickly demonstrated that she is smart, hard-working, passionate and sensitive to clients' needs. In the few years since she graduated, she has already become a powerful force in the legal community. Her work on housing rights improves the lives of people who otherwise would suffer grave injustices. We are proud to have her as an alumna of Southwestern and of the Clinical Program."
Each year, this award recognizes up-and-coming heroes working in conjunction with the Western Center to fight for the rights of poor people in vital areas such as housing, health care and public benefits. Rock Stars are chosen for the talent and sensitivity they have demonstrated in combating the injustices suffered by disadvantaged people. In addition to her advocacy, Palomares also conducts presentations to teach her clients about their rights, saying, "I love empowering them to have the tools and resources to be their own advocates."