Yet, despite the fact that Claudia had lived in the
United States for almost her entire life, she was
undocumented, and that complicated her plans of higher
education. Her immigration status made her ineligible
for any sort of financial aid and paying out of pocket
wasn’t an option. “I felt like all of my dreams and
aspirations had come crashing down on me,” Claudia
said. “However, I felt motivated to find a way.”
And find a way she did. She discovered Public Counsel, a legal
nonprofit that assists immigrant children. Under the Special
Juvenile Immigration Status Law, Claudia could become a
permanent resident if the legal process was completed before
she came of age. At 17-and-a-half, Claudia was dangerously
close to legal adulthood. However, her lawyer expedited the
process so that the law would still apply to her.
It was this lawyer’s zealous advocacy and willingness to
help her achieve status in this country that motivated Claudia
to become a lawyer and help those in similar situations.
“Specifically, I want to give back to the Latino commu-
nity,” she noted. “I know that being able to connect through
our shared language, Spanish, is invaluable in helping bridge
the mistrust in the legal system. I know that having the
ability to speak to clients in their language ensures that they
receive the best services possible.”
Claudia’s keen attention to the importance of good
communication in law and in life led her to earn both her
bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communication studies. She
also teaches Principles of Communication to undergraduates
in the Department of Communication here at the University.
This aspect of her education is an asset to her career
“I know how to de-escalate a situation or act as a media-
tor,” she said. “I am cognizant that we all communicate
differently and am sensitive to other’s needs and communica-
tion differences, which I think will make it easier for me to
navigate the adversarial system.”
Now, Claudia was able to return to the organization that
helped her remain in the country, as a law clerk.
Claudia says returning to Public Counsel—this time on
the other side of the table—was an invaluable experience.
Besides paying it forward, Claudia, who is a Public Inter-
est Scholar, gained real experience in that area of law. This
Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, visa ap-
plicants, and other individuals seeking immigration relief.
Most of the work she did was in Spanish, and she saw
firsthand the need for bilingual lawyers and advocates to
work with immigrant communities to make the legal system
A dangerous work situation at her first job out of high
school also impacted Claudia both personally and professionally. Her experience showed that protections for workers
were limited, and she wanted to find a way to improve them,
particularly in terms of sexual harassment. She even explored
these policies through her master’s thesis, which is when she
decided to pursue work with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
This past summer, Claudia fulfilled that goal at the EEOC
Office of Legal Counsel in Washington, DC. She worked on
policy issues to protect the rights of transgender employees
and their use of restrooms at work, drafted a religious
discrimination fact sheet to inform youth about their rights
in the workplace (now on the EEOC website), researched
rampant age discrimination in Silicon Valley, and suggested
that the EEOC update its Age Discrimination regulations to
provide stronger protections for employees over 40.
If that weren’t enough to keep a law student busy, on
campus, Claudia is equally as engaged. Among other activities
she is the sourcing editor for Western New England Law
Review, the content editor for Lex Brevis, copresident of the
National Lawyer’s Guild Student Chapter, and a member of
the Public Interest Law Association. Most notably, Claudia is
the president and founder of the Latino/a Student Association
(LLSA). The group has already implemented an immigration
pro bono initiative to assist legal permanent residents in the
community in completing Naturalization forms.
“I felt the need for a LLSA because there are so many
resources for Latino/a law students that we aren’t aware of,”
she said. “LLSA has helped create an identifiable group for
outside community members and lawyers who want to share
experiences and opportunities with Latino/a students.”
Overall, Claudia feels that the atmosphere at Western
New England is conducive not only to her education, but as
an open and representative learning environment that stimu-
lates academic discussion and peer camaraderie.
“Our professors are always willing to help us achieve
success,” she said. “Each group on campus works hard to
be inclusive and promote diversity. We have that feel-good,
tight-knit community.” ◆
Claudia Quintero came to the United States from Mexico at only a year old. Though she may not
remember ever living outside of Los Angeles, she was brought up around music and dance, particularly
those styles that reflected her heritage and kept her close to her culture. Growing up, Claudia was an
ambitious and busy student, and dreamed of going to college and building her future.