A Passion for Legal Advocacy

It took Mariana De Leon a staggering eight years of meetings, filings, and legal maneuvering to obtain a Green Card. The experience helped ignite her passion for legal advocacy on behalf of immigrants.

“There is clearly a dearth of competent lawyers to help bridge cultural, language, and other barriers that often hinder immigrants seeking permanent residency status,” said the Santa Maria High School graduate. “That’s my main professional motivation: to help fill that hole and create a more equitable system for those seeking a better life in this country.”

With help from the Scholarship Foundation, she is well on her way to achieving that goal. Mariana is a first-year student at Stanford Law School, having received a George A. Cavalletto Law School Scholarship. Recipients from that scholarship fund must demonstrate a commitment to community service as well as a strong work ethic and academic achievement – all of which Mariana has in spades.

Born in Jalisco, Mexico, Mariana immigrated to the United States at age 2 and ultimately attended Harvard University, also with substantial support from the Scholarship Foundation. She graduated in 2021 with bachelor’s degrees in literature and history – and numerous academic honors.

Student activism and community work were an important part of her undergraduate experience.

“For four years, I worked hard to achieve an affirming atmosphere for immigrants on campus and in the broader Cambridge community,” she said.

Somehow, Mariana also found the time to work and send money to her family in Santa Maria.

“Growing up, my family and their undying love for me were the only certainties in an environment marked by poverty, homelessness, and food insecurity, and I still feel the need to celebrate and elevate my mother and five siblings,” she said. “I arranged for them all to attend my Covid-delayed graduation ceremony last year. Coming down the stage and handing my diploma to my mother was the proudest moment of my life.”