Family: Plenty and I love them all dearly.
Pets: A velocitiel (OK, a cockatiel) named Sunshine and a murderous goldfish from the fair named Norman Baits (there were four originally; Norman Baits took care of that).
Education: University of North Florida (BBA in Economics and BBA in Finance, 2005; MBA, 2006), Florida Coastal School of Law (JD, 2008).
Admitted to the Bar: 2008
Employed by: Jacksonville Area Legal Aid Inc.
Field of practice: Immigration
Professional organizations: American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), The Jacksonville Bar Association.
Currently, I participate in the “Ask-A-Lawyer” events, where people can have a free consultation with an attorney about legal matters on a Saturday morning. As often as I can, I participate in any JALA-related event and I take pro bono cases despite being in public service. I was a member of the Jacksonville Jaycees (a wonderful organization for young professionals, very flexible — hope to return to the fold soon). I have been a guest speaker to different student groups and legal panels at Florida Coastal. I am an avid supporter of Jacksonville’s annual Citizenship Day. In the past, Florida Coastal’s Immigrants’ Rights Clinic Professor Ericka Curran and her outstanding students ran it. Professor Curran handed the reins to me and I have a Naturalization Skills Lab at my alma mater, Florida Coastal, to coordinate Jacksonville’s Citizenship Day 2012 on April 14. The students, Chavelys Alers, Nancy Cardoza, Julia Goncharova, Farheen “Lina” Khan, Jorge Mares and Bruno Portigliatti, are incredible, to say the least. I am very impressed by and proud of them and have learned as much, if not more, than what I hope they have learned from me. They already know what took me time to discover — community involvement is one of the most important aspects of one’s life/career because relationships are everything and community involvement builds/maintains relationships.
How did you get involved?
I am inspired by my mentors/colleagues (Ericka Curran, Nancy Hale, Rebecca Caballero, Karen Winston and Jamie Ibrahim, to name a few) and I tend to be a “yes” person, so all it took was someone asking. Consistent, positive experiences got me looking for opportunities myself.
How can someone else get involved?
If interested in volunteering in a legal sense, Kathy Para at JALA is amazing at coordinating our pro bono department. If interested in volunteering generally, just contact an agency, church or other nonprofit that piques your interest and let them know you’d like to volunteer.
What have you learned/achieved through the experience?
When you genuinely care about what you do/who you help, understand the impact/importance of what you do (to your clients, your local/national governments/economies, etc.), and make that your primary focus, you can accomplish anything. I am still learning the difference one person can make, but also that the most amazing results tend to be the product of many of those individuals caring and caring enough to take action together. It achieved saving my job (really the services provided through it) in 2011.
What was the last book you read or are reading?
“What the Dog Saw,” by Malcolm Gladwell (last book read) and “The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor,” by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga (currently reading).