Every year, we at the Answering Legal Foundation are fortunate enough to sift through the impressive resumes, achievements, and personal statements of outstanding young individuals who are to become the next generation of lawyers. At the end of our search, after finding what we believe to be the most deserving candidate, it’s always difficult to put into words how we just know that we were right to make our decision, but we like to think that the results speak for themselves. This year’s winner of the Future Attorneys of America Scholarship is recent NYU Law School Graduate, Juan Esteban Bedoya.
“As we get more and more applicants for the FAAS scholarship, it gets harder for us to choose. Once we had all gotten to Juan’s application, it was unanimous that he was the best representation of what we are looking to support in the legal profession; someone who’s not just in it for the money, but someone who is really looking to help people and make a difference,” said VP of Operations at Answering Legal, Alyssa Accardi.
Juan, though just recently graduated, is already quite accomplished in the field he is entering: immigration reform. During his time in undergrad at Harvard, he acted as Director of Resources for Harvard College Act on a Dream, which is the student organization dedicated to immigration reform. The organization, led by Juan, spearheaded a campaign where they contacted guidance counselors at high schools across the country and armed them and the schools with their guidebook on the college application process for undocumented students. They ultimately reached 800 schools spanning all 50 states.
After his time at Harvard, Juan worked directly with the immigrant community at the Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island.
“I have learned that immigration advocacy doesn’t just happen in the courtroom. Effective advocacy involves grassroots organizing, community-based collective action, impact litigation, and direct legal services,” writes Bedoya.
After this experience, Juan worked at the Brooklyn Defender Services New York Immigrant Family Unity Project Unit. This gave him even more experience in working with immigration attorneys and reform advocates.
Now that he has graduated, Juan has stayed true to his heart and has accepted a position at Political Asylum Immigration Representation Project. “November of last year I was awarded the Skadden fellowship so I’ll be doing public interest work at an organization called the Political Asylum Immigration Representation Project in Boston, they go by PAIR. I’ll be working with immigrant communities in Boston once I pass the BAR,” said Bedoya, who joined me on a short Zoom conference call.
He is currently studying for the BAR exam which interestingly will be held online this year, due to COVID-19.
After having listed all of Juan’s accomplishments, I would feel remiss if I did not mention what an extraordinary gentleman he is. We let Juan know that he was the scholarship winner after our decision was made, but because we had to quickly shift to working from home, it was difficult for us to get a check and coordinate the effort to actually get it to him. He waited patiently and was still extremely gracious enough to join me for a Zoom call upon receiving it. He hadn’t even cashed it, as he assumed we would want to take a picture with him holding it up.
It’s very clear to us that Juan isn’t becoming a lawyer for the money, but to really affect change and help people who are near and dear to his heart. We are overjoyed that an organization like PAIR has also seen what we see in Mr. Bedoya, and we know that they have made a great decision in bringing him on board.
It has been our absolute pleasure to present Juan with this award, as we feel he exemplifies all that we are looking for here at the Answering Legal Foundation. Congratulations, again and good luck in all of your future endeavors.
Students, and Future Attorneys of America, visit our scholarship page and apply to be our next recipient!