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Puerto Rican Bar Association raises money for scholarships with annual gala

October 24, 2017 By Rob Abruzzese, Legal Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Honorees from the New York State Court of Appeals including Chief Judge Janet DiFiore (fourth from right). Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese
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The Puerto Rican Bar Association (PRBA) celebrated its 60th anniversary during its annual Diamond Jubilee Fundraiser Gala that was held at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan on Friday.

“Tonight is so important to me because this is our 60th anniversary of this iconic bar association — the Puerto Rican Bar,” said BRBA President Carmen Pacheco. “Tonight we celebrate the official formation of the PRBA. This is the oldest Latino bar association in the mainland U.S.A. Our organization is living proof that we are united, resilient and here in support of one another.”

The event’s theme was “Honoring Our Past While Strengthening Our Future.”

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“We believe that supporting young Latino students to pursue a legal education paves the way for a more diverse, just and inclusive field for the benefit of all,” Pacheco said.

The gala’s primary goal is to raise money for scholarships for law school students in New York as a way to promote diversity in the legal profession. They had no problem reaching this year’s goal of raising $200,000.

There were a total of 11 scholarship recipients this year including Christina M. Gutierrez, Natalie Rios, Kevin Rafael Varela, Ana A. Nunez, Claudia Cadenillas, Mary Carolina Diaz, Adriel F. Colon, Marcy Robles, Gabriella A. Romero, Zoila Sanchez and Jessica Orellana.

This year is the first time PRBA awarded legacy scholarships in which each recipient will receive $10,000 yearly until graduation. The PRBA Scholarship Fund was established as a nonprofit in 1978. Since then it has helped more than 250 recipients of the award break into the legal community.

Pacheco also presented four groups with trophies honoring their commitment to the diversity in the legal community. This year’s honorees included the New York State Court of Appeals, which received the Judicial Excellence Award; Robert L. Haig, of the law firm Kelley, Drye & Warren, who received the Law Firm Diversity Award; the CUNY Board of Trustees, who was awarded the Board Diversity and Academic Leadership award; and Elisa D. Garcia, the Chief Legal Officers of Macy’s.

Mari Carmen Aponte, former U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador, was presented with the Lifetime Legacy Award.

A big part of the night was not just about the bar association itself, or the scholarships it gave out, but many people also discussed the troubles Puerto Rico has experienced following the destruction of recent hurricanes.

It started when Pacheco held a moment of silence for the people of Puerto Rico and it carried over into a passionate speech that U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez gave where she called out the federal government’s poor response to the tragedy.

“In this country, we love to lecture the world about values and democracy and this is a moment where we have to show what we preach,” said Velázquez, who got a standing ovation. “We have someone in Washington who needs a lot of history lessons.

“This is our fight for justice and the only thing I can promise you is this: If the Republicans in Washington expect to have a budget or any other issue resolved by the end of December, then they’d better take care of Puerto Rico or we will shut down the government,” she concluded.


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