CFJI hits milestone with first class of Graduating Advocates

June 11, 2020 - Sal Guardiola II

cfji advocate graduates

Top row (from left), Yarrow Allaire, Lionel Betsch, Lizdebeth Carrasco-Gallardo, and Evelyn Ibarra-Ortiz. Bottom row (from left), Ariana Montez, Meagan Muñoz, and Sun Vega.

In May, the UNM School of Law Child & Family Justice Initiative (CFJI) celebrated a major milestone since its creation in 2016, graduating its first class of Child & Family Justice Advocates.

Among the first graduating class were Yarrow Allaire, Lionel Betsch, Lizdebeth Carrasco-Gallardo, Evelyn Ibarra-Ortiz, Ariana Montez, Meagan Muñoz, and Sun Vega.

One of the aims of the CFJI is to prepare UNM Law students to use transformative advocacy to pursue ­racial equity and well-being for children and families in New Mexico.  In the fall of 2017, the first cohort of students was selected to undergo holistic education, training, and experiential learning as part of the Child & Family Justice Advocates Program.  The selection process required each applicant to demonstrate a commitment to serving vulnerable children and families through the law. 

Upon selection, each Advocate was awarded a $5,000 per year tuition scholarship (for a maximum of $15,000) as well as a one-time $5,000 stipend to support a summer internship.  In addition to the financial support, Advocates completed three years of focused training together with the goal of becoming outstanding social justice lawyers dedicated to serving New Mexico’s at-risk children and families after graduation.

Now, after three years of intensive study and preparation, this first class of Advocates prepares to enter the legal field at a time when need for their service in New Mexico is at an all-time high.  The Law School anticipates impactful work in the years to come as these Advocates commence their legal careers.

In addition to the accomplishments of earning their Juris Doctorate and completing the Advocates Program, many of the Advocates also received honors and awards from faculty for exhibiting excellence in various capacities throughout their legal studies.  Furthermore, some Advocates have already committed to employment opportunities, while others are exploring various options.  All of the Advocates will bring their invaluable training with them as they move forward.  Below are brief profiles on each of the members of the first class of graduating Advocates.  You can learn more about their backstories that brought them to UNM Law here.

Yarrow Allaire
Honors & Awards: Tribal Law Journal Certificate, Co-Editor in Chief; Indian Law Certificate; Dean’s Award.
Employment: New Mexico Law Offices of the Public Defender, Albuquerque, NM.

Lionel Betsch
Honors & Awards: New Mexico Law Review Certificate, Symposium Editor; Jerrold L. Walden Memorial Award.
Employment: Law Clerk for New Mexico Supreme Court Justice C. Shannon Bacon, Santa Fe, NM.

Regarding the Advocates Program: “I know that I greatly appreciate the financial and programmatic support over all three years, and I definitely appreciated our cadre of Advocate. I have much respect for all of the good work put in by Beth, Cristen, and the Board. Hopefully in a few years, we will see many if not all of the cohort making a difference in the lives of New Mexican children and families. The CFJI scholarship planted great seeds and made our cohort mindful of the opportunities we have to make a difference in our community. I know we all want to make an impact through the law for New Mexican children and families.”

Lizdebeth Carrasco-Gallardo
Honors & Awards: Dean’s Award.
Employment: New Mexico Law Offices of the Public Defender, Albuquerque, NM.

Regarding the Advocates Program: “I knew this huge goal would take a village, but I didn’t realize how many people had my back. I am so thankful for my community and groups like CFJI for believing in me and for supporting me through my law school journey. Thanks to this group, I was able to find my place within the law school and create friendships with amazing people that I will forever cherish.”

Evelyn Ibarra-Ortiz
Honors & Awards: Immigration Advocacy Award; Clinical Honors Award.
Employment: New Mexico Law Offices of the Public Defender, Albuquerque, NM.

Regarding the Advocates Program: “The Program gave me the encouragement I needed to be able to succeed in law school. Aside from the financial support, having the support of an entire team made me feel as though I could overcome anything. The support my classmates have given me has been overwhelming!”

Ariana Montez
Honors & Awards: Dean’s Award.

Meagan Muñoz
Regarding the Advocates Program:

“The scholarship really helped me navigate my law school journey. It felt like armor that I could wear into interviews and created a community for me in law school. It focused my goals. I wanted to participate in Jaramillo, study in Spain, learn about the experiences of children in New Mexico. I was able to do it all because of the support this scholarship gave me. I was surrounded with like-minded people that ended up being some of my biggest supporters in law school. From this first-generation law school graduate, thank you for creating the first ripple of opportunity that will hopefully continue to impact education in New Mexico for generations to come.”

Sun Vega
Honors & Awards: Irwin Stern Moise Award Recognizing Excellence in Legal and Judicial Ethics.
Employment: TeamBuilders Behavioral Health, LLC, Santa Fe, NM; Vega Diagnostic & Consulting Services, LLC, Santa Fe, NM

Regarding the Advocates Program: “This Program and scholarship provided me the opportunity to be among an impactful group of individuals which shaped my personal experiences as a student at UNM Law. These will be imprinted in my memory for years to come and will guide my professional work going forward.