SWLAW Blog | Awards & Honors

Angel Ajala, Fabiola Martinez, Jovana Morales, Vivian Kim, Cristina Terrazas, Markisha Roches, Tatiana Owens, and Eleni Rodriguez standing in a line holding their award certificates

April 27, 2022

2022 Public Service Program Graduating Student Awards

On Thursday, April 14th, 2022, our Public Interest Law Faculty Committee celebrated and honored our graduating students at the Public Service Program Awards Luncheon. 

Special recognition was given to a few outstanding students for their demonstrated and significant dedication to public interest law activities while at Southwestern. 

We are proud to recognize and celebrate our 2022 Southwestern Public Interest Law Service Award recipients: 

Angel Ajala Headshot2022 Recipient: Angel Ajala

Angel Ajala has undoubtedly committed herself to public service and the Southwestern community in having served as a board member of multiple public interest organizations on campus as well as having volunteered at a number of off-campus organizations. Angel has earned over 200 public service hours and will proudly continue her commitment to this work with Los Angeles Dependency Lawyers, Inc. where she will serve as a post-bar clerk following the summer bar exam.

We asked Angel...

What words of advice would you have for future Southwestern students?

REMEMBER, THIS IS YOUR MEANT TO BE. Understand that whatever led you here, whatever your purpose is, whatever your WHY, you are here for a reason, and you have a community rooting for your success.

Emily Goldberg Headshot2022 Recipient: Emily Goldberg

Emily Goldberg (they/them) has been dedicated to strengthening the Southwestern community on and off-campus during their law school studies. Emily has served as Co-Chair of PILC, Secretary of OUTLaw, Upper-Division Representative of SBA, and co-facilitated Southwestern's Safe Space Series. Emily has also served as a law clerk in several of Southwestern's Legal Clinics, such as Street Law, Community Lawyering, and Eviction Defense. 

Following the summer bar exam, Emily will continue on in their journey as a post-bar fellow with the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles's Eviction Defense Unit.

We asked Emily...

What is the most satisfying aspect of public service for you? 

The most satisfying aspect of public service is seeing the people it brings together. I have made some of my closest friends at school through participating in similar initiatives: whether it’s the Gender Marker and Name Change Clinic, campaigning for gender-neutral restrooms, or legal observing. I am thankful I found a group of like-minded people.

Vivian Kim Headshot2022 Recipient: Vivian Kim

Over the past several years, Vivian has had the opportunity to work across all sides of the Los Angeles criminal justice system—first at the District Attorney’s office, then as a judicial clerk for multiple felony judges, and most recently as an extern with the Offices of both the Alternate Public Defender and Public Defender. While each experience was rewarding, Vivian found her work with public defenders offices to be the most fulfilling in finding her purpose. 

Vivian intends to dedicate her legal career to indigent defense and, following the summer bar exam, will continue on as a post-bar clerk with the San Bernardino County Public Defender’s Office.

We asked Vivian...

What have been some of your favorite highlights of your service involvement during law school?

My time working as a judicial clerk gave me enormous exposure to the entire criminal justice system and positioned me to be a much more effective advocate. I was able to write several judicial memoranda, at least one of which became a part of the public record. Additionally, my time working with clients at both Public Defenders’ offices exposed me to the human & practical realities of the legal system—which is what ultimately inspired me to choose a career as a public defender. 

Fabiola Martinez Headshot2022 Recipient: Fabiola Martinez

Fabiola is a first-generation college and law student planning to pursue a career in employment law. During her studies at Southwestern, Fabiola has served as a Peggy Browning Fellow with the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, clerked at the Harriet Buhai Center for Family Law, and currently works at a law firm representing workers. After law school, Fabiola hopes to use her law degree to continue advocating for working-class communities. 

We asked Fabiola...

What is the most satisfying aspect of public service for you?

The most satisfying aspect is that I’m using my privilege as a law student (and soon-to-be lawyer!) to empower and advocate for those who need it. Especially in the context of most of the work I’ve done, there is usually a language and trust barrier to getting legal help, and I am happy that I can bridge that gap and use my own identity and experience to be an advocate for these communities.

Jovana Morales Headshot2022 Recipient: Jovana Morales

Jovana is a first-generation student who has always been passionate about public interest practice, specifically in the area of immigration law and policy, as she aspires to be an advocate for immigrant rights. Jovana participated in both the Immigration Law Clinic and the Advanced Immigration Law Clinic, providing immigration relief to individuals in the community. While at Southwestern, Jovana was also a peer mentor and a member of both the Latino Law Students Association and the Immigration Law Students Association. 

We asked Jovana...

What have been some of your favorite highlights of your service involvement during law school?

One of my favorite highlights during law school was being a part of the Immigration Law Clinic because it was not only an opportunity to learn more about immigration law, but I also got to see and learn more about the importance of public interest. Learning to be an advocate from Professor Ramos and being able to have a class where we could talk about how to advocate for our clients was very rewarding. Most importantly, working with the client and being part of their journey was an amazing experience. 

My time with the Immigration Law Clinic was a great experience because not only did I learn more about immigration law, but I was able to reinforce my passion for immigration law and public interest. 

Tatiana Owens headshot2022 Recipient: Tatiana Owens

Tatiana was raised in South Central Los Angeles, graduated from Cal State Dominguez Hills with a Bachelor’s in Political Science, and is a mom to an 11-year-old son, Justin, and cat Halle. In addition to serving as a law clerk for the Los Angeles County Public Defender's Office, Tatiana has served as a board member for Southwestern’s Black Law Student Association, Latino Law Student Association, a Peer Mentor, and as a Judge Harry Pregerson Public Service Fellow. 

Following the summer bar exam, Tatiana will return to the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office. 

We asked Tatiana...

Feel free to share a personal note with those you’d like to thank for supporting you during your law school career.

I want to express my gratitude to George and Katrina Woolverton for making this opportunity possible. It makes such an impact in being able to achieve my goals. I am also grateful to the students before me that supported and encouraged me through this journey and to my professors. Especially Professor Caldwell and Professor Campbell who cheered me on when I was doubting myself and took the time to offer their wisdom and support to me. Thank you!!

Markisha Roches Headshot2022 Recipient: Markisha Roches

Markisha is committed to public service and her vision for the future in creating a better legal system for victims of violent crimes and to ensure that victims' voices are heard as an aspiring prosecutor. Aside from being a Peer Mentor, Vice President of Teen Court, and member of Southwestern's Trial Advocacy Honors Program, Markisha is most grateful for her new role as a mom to her four-month-old son, Cameron.

We asked Markisha...

What have been some of your favorite highlights of your service involvement during law school?

I’ll never forget the student jurors I assisted while volunteering with Teen Court. To see kids not judge so harshly, to see that they can be fair and understand that people make mistakes, showed me that the younger generation is moving in the right direction.

Eleni Rodriguez headshot2022 Recipient: Eleni Rodriguez

Eleni is the proud daughter of two Marine Corp veterans and will be graduating from Southwestern's accelerated two-year SCALE program. While at Southwestern, Eleni volunteered in over 20 pro bono clinics directed by legal service organizations, such as A New Way of Life, Harriet Buhai Center for Family Law, and the Levitt Quinn Family Law Center, among others. Eleni is a Judge Harry Pregerson Public Service Fellow and recipient of the Cassady Humanitarian Award. 

Following the summer bar exam, she will be continuing onto the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office as a post-bar clerk. 

We asked Eleni...

What words of advice would you have for future Southwestern students?

Get out and volunteer for all sorts of clinics. Your time in law school is so short compared to your future career in law. The life experiences of meeting all different kinds of people who you ordinarily wouldn’t come across is a great gift that gives insight into human nature and allows you to be a better lawyer.

Cristina Terrazas headshot2022 Recipient: Cristina Terrazas

Cristina is a first-generation law student with a dream of working for the District Attorney's Office. At Southwestern, she has served as the President of Teen Court, Co-President of the Tax Law Society, Treasurer of the Criminal Law Society, Fundraising Co-coordinator for the Women's Law Association, a Peer Mentor, and a law clerk for the Community Lawyering Clinic and for the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office. She has found a passion for public service work and has achieved over 400 public service hours, volunteering for various organizations.

We asked Cristina...

What have been some of your favorite highlights of your service involvement during law school?

One of my first public service opportunities was volunteering for the VITA clinic and on my first day of volunteering, I filed state and federal income taxes for a community member who showed so much kindness, patience, and gratitude for my help despite living through traumatic experiences. This encounter has stayed with me since then. Externing for the District Attorney's office and helping achieve justice for victims of sex crimes, domestic violence, and child abuse has also been incredible. While the subject matter has been tough, the experience itself has been one of the most rewarding opportunities I've had.

Alex Welfringer headshot2022 Recipient: Alex Welfringer

Alex came to Southwestern after earning her B.A. in Business Administration and M.B.A. from Point Loma Nazarene University. Alex is a student in Southwestern's accelerated two-year SCALE program and is actively involved in public service and extracurricular activities. Alex serves as a member of Southwestern's Law Review, a Senior Advocate and Academics Chair for the Trial Advocacy Honors Program, a law clerk in Southwestern's Ninth Circuit Appellate Litigation Clinic, a Teaching Assistant to Dean Rolnick, Professor Gunning, Professor VanLandingham, and Professor Aronovsky, and a student leader for Southwestern's Small Claims Court Clinic. She has externed with the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division for the Central District of California and has accepted a position as a 2022 summer associate with the Los Angeles office of Holland & Knight.  

We asked Alex...

What words of advice would you have for future Southwestern students? 

My advice for future Southwestern students is to get involved early and often.  Law school is an incredibly busy and stressful experience and sometimes it can be difficult to feel like you have to time for one more thing, but I promise that being involved in public service is worth it.  It is so gratifying to take all that we learn in class and practically apply some of the skills in order to help people.


Nine Southwestern Graduating Student Award recipients holding award certificates in front of SWLAW step and repeat with purple SWLAW logo and Bison mascot
L to R: Angel Ajala, Vivian Kim, Cristina Terrazas, Markisha Roches, Tatiana Owens, Jeffrey Martin, Eleni Rodriguez, Fabiola Martinez, and Jovana Morales

Congratulations to all ten accomplished students! Your commitment to public service and public interest law is truly inspiring.