Brooklyn Law School’s Latin American Student Association honors Judge Mallafre
The Latin American Law Students’ Association (LALSA) at Brooklyn Law School (BLS) hosted its annual alumni dinner and awards ceremony in Downtown Brooklyn on Friday during which it honored three people including Judge Connie Mallafre Melendez.
Mallafre Melendez received the Hon. John Carro Achievement Award. Jonathan Soto was given the Public Service Award of Excellence and Michael “Frank” Francis was given the Antonio Seda Excellence in Mentoring Award.
Joseph Santiago, who won the Brooklyn Law School’s Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship (CUBE) Innovators Competition the day prior, was presented with the Student Achievement Award.
“We’re looking to a diverse group of people who have done a bit of everything,” said Ana Nunez, co-chair of the event. “With these honorees there is a bit of everything — youth, mentors, people who have been involved with their communities — and, with the judge, someone who has gone far in their career.”
Mallafre Melendez, who is the first Cuban-born elected official in New York state, spoke about her time as a BLS student and a member of the Hispanic Law Students Association, which predates LALSA. She said that she loves mentoring young people because she didn’t have a mentor herself when she started her career.
“For me, this award validates the notion that struggles and mishaps need not be in vain and I am humbled to know that I serve as one example of Latina/Latino accomplishment within the BLS alumni community,” Mallafre Melendez said.
Soto served as the keynote speaker for the event. Nunez explained that the group had met Soto earlier in the school year and he quickly became someone they could turn to for advice.
“We met him at the beginning of the year when he was a speaker here,” Nunez said. “He immediately drew a connection with us. He’s involved in his community, he has helped to connect us to the Pro Bono Project and he gave us guidance whenever we needed it.”
Francis, who is active in multiple bar associations including the Brooklyn Bar Association, the Hispanic National Bar Association and the LGBT Bar Association, is another person who has been willing to help LALSA students.
“A lot of law school students are second or even third generation lawyers, they already have a network of people to go to after law school. That doesn’t apply to all students, particularly the ones in this room.”
LALSA was recently named the Best Student Organization by the BLS student body and the student bar association. Nunez said that she thinks the group is popular in the school because it is made up of strong academic students who often organize fun and popular events like its dodgeball tournament, which is held once a semester.
“We’re very diverse, we are a group of strong academic students,” she said. “We are very driven, but we also like to have fun. There are other groups that take things too seriously. We have a good combination of everything.”