Carlos Valenzuela, a third year law student at New York Law School, was named “Law Student of the Year” by the National Jurist. Carlos is one of 25 total honorees from over 200 law schools across the country. The award honors students who have shown dedication and commitment to work in their communities and to pro bono service.
Carlos began as a volunteer with the Safe Passage Project during his first year of law school. Professor Lenni Benson, Carlos’ immigration law professor and Executive Director of the Safe Passage Project, asked Carlos to volunteer as a student-translator. Since then, Carlos has grown from student-translator, to law student intern, to research assistant, to justice AmeriCorps paralegal, and now has returned as a Pro Bono Scholar after taking the New York State Bar Exam. Carlos is currently working alongside Safe Passage Project staff and pro bono attorneys to complete their cases.
Aside from working with Safe Passage Project, Carlos is currently the President of the Immigration Law Students Association at NYLS. The student organization’s mission is to raise awareness of immigration issues in the community. Carlos has traveled to Guatemala to work with and observe the various efforts instituted by the Guatemalan government to provide services for deported children. He likes to keep himself busy and stay involved.
Carlos explains that his work with Safe Passage Project made him more aware of the issues occurring in his community, including the violence in Guatemala where his family members originated. Carlos credits Safe Passage Project with much of what he has learned about immigration law and valuable hands-on experience. Carlos urges prospective volunteers to sign up with Safe Passage Project; he believes it gave him a sense of value and appreciation for the work he has been doing with immigrant youth.