Katia Bouza has known since the third grade that she wants to be a lawyer. An attorney who spoke on career day at Carter Academy in Houston, Texas, inspired her to attend law school.
As a member of the Hispanic community who was raised in a low income neighborhood by immigrant parents, Bouza faced more challenges to get to law school than most aspiring lawyers.
Bouza has paved the way for her two younger siblings and their family as a first generation college student and law student. She is now a rising second year law student at the University of North Texas Dallas College of Law and is working toward a career as a tax lawyer.
Bouza is one of 18 students this year who will benefit from scholarships, bar study grants, and internships awarded by the Dallas Hispanic Law Foundation. The recipients were honored at the DHLF annual luncheon on May 25, at the Arts District Mansion before nearly 170 guests.
The DHLF has awarded Bouza a summer internship with Dallas County District Judge Dale Tillery, one of three internships awarded. While there, she anticipates she will observe oral advocacy, create connections, and gain experience with legal writing.
Manuel Berrelez, a litigation partner at Vinson & Elkins and vice president of the Dallas Hispanic Law Foundation, said that it is this type of perseverance, hard work and a clear passion for giving back to the Hispanic community that makes a student an ideal candidate to receive a scholarship or grant from the DHLF.
Since its inception in 2006, the Dallas Hispanic Law Foundation has awarded more than $500,000 in scholarships and grants. This year, law firms, individuals and corporations donated $50,000, which matched the amount raised last year.
Internships awarded through DHLF include a stipend. Berrelez said that many students awarded unpaid internships would not have been able to accept due to the burden of having to work a paid job in order to pay tuition.
“Receiving this internship has really given me hope and finances, as well as allowed me to continue to pursue my law degree and learn from the judges that are willing to help train interns,” Bouza said. “This shows me that the legal space is created for me.”
In addition to Tillery, the other judges participating in this year’s internship program are state criminal judge Hector Garza and federal magistrate judge Irma Ramirez.
As of 2022, roughly 40% of the Dallas population is Hispanic, Berrelez said, but only 6 to 8% of Dallas attorneys are Hispanic.
The DHLF is working to balance the number of Hispanics in the legal field with statewide demographics.
As the Hispanic business community continues to grow in Texas, Berrelez said that it is becoming even more important to ensure that Hispanic law students are graduating and passing the bar exam.
Applicants were asked to write a 250-word essay and to submit their transcript and résumé. The recipients were selected based on an outstanding academic record and a candid essay showing a passion for giving back to the Hispanic community.
Dallas Hispanic Law Foundation Scholarship Recipients (Courtesy of Kristina Bowman Photography)
Once chosen, recipients filmed a short video introducing themselves, thanking the foundation, and giving a brief description of their education background and future plans. The videos were played at the Arts District Mansion event.
“I want to inspire other low-income students who are sitting in that third-grade classroom with parents that have not gone to college, who have no idea how they are going to pay for college, much less go to law school,” Bouza said. “It gives me hope and encouragement that the legal field is changing, and that diversity is increasing.”
Here are the DHLF financial recipients for 2022:
2022 Scholarships and Bar Study Grants:
- Laura Cox (University of Texas)
- Amy Zelaya (Texas A&M University)
- Ana Martinez (Texas A&M University)
- Emily Martinez (University of Houston)
- Lesley Martinez (University of Houston)
- Carlos Torres (University of Texas)
- Josue Barron (Texas A&M University)
- Maria Campos (St. Mary’s University)
- Marco Graniel (University of Houston)
- Alexis Cavazos (Southern Methodist University)
- Maria Chavez (University of North Texas Dallas)
- Ana Mitchell Cordova (Texas Tech University)
- Debany Davila (Texas A&M University)
- Aletsey Hinojosa (University of Houston)
- Andrea Pascal (St. Mary’s University)
- Katia Bouza (University of North Texas Dallas)
- Asa Perez (University of North Texas Dallas)
- Annaliza Rodriguez (University of North Texas Dallas)