Chelsea Olivera, 2L, and Jessica Munoz, 2L
To the late and much celebrated Cuban poet José Martí, "el talento es un don que trae consigo la obligación de servir a las demás personas, y no a nosotros mismos—talent is a gift that brings with it the obligation to serve other people, and not ourselves." While Martí may no longer be with us, it is clear where Miami Law students Chelsea Olivera, 2L, and Jessica Munoz, 2L, and their compelling personal stories as Cuban Americans emulate the national hero’s powerful legacy. Both students were recently awarded the Cuban American Bar Association Foundation Scholarship, which honors them for their active participation in and dedication to the Cuban community, in addition to their impressive academic achievements as law students.
For Olivera, a Dean’s Merit Scholar ranked in the top 10% of her class, receiving the CABA scholarship is as thrilling as transformative.
“I appreciate that this scholarship award will help me connect with members of the Cuban American legal community,” said Olivera. “As a Miami native and second-year student at the University of Miami School of Law, I have the unique privilege of being surrounded by many distinguished Cuban American lawyers. My interactions with Cuban American lawyers and elected officials during my time in law school and before law school when I worked in politics have taught me the value of mentorship. I believe it is central to my personal growth to continue engaging with the Cuban American legal community — my community.”
Olivera, the granddaughter of Cuban refugees and the daughter of a working-class single mother, hopes to pursue health law in the future. She worked at a boutique health care firm in Miami during her 1L summer, where she worked on transactional, litigation, and regulatory matters for health care clients. She has also accepted an offer for a summer associate position for her 2L summer with McDermott Will & Emery, where she will work with the Miami office’s health care and corporate practices. Before law school, Olivera worked for four years at two law firms in Miami on a political campaign for a Florida gubernatorial candidate and as a legislative aide for a Florida state senator.
At Miami Law, she is a member of the CABA student chapter and the director of professional relations for the Health Law Association. For Olivera, the CABA scholarship is as much about paying it back as it is about paying it forward.
“I hope that this scholarship will give me the opportunity to build relationships with mentors,” she said. “I also hope to one day become a mentor for other Cuban American law students and younger attorneys through CABA.”
Munoz, a Dean’s Merit Scholar in the top 5% of her class, shares Olivera’s fondness for her community. Her own story is fascinating: when she was 8 years old, she and her family attempted to come to the United States in a raft from Cuba three times before finally succeeding.
Munoz reflects on her early years with appreciation. “Were it not for the difficult decision that my parents made, I would not be here today, let alone have dreams of becoming an attorney,” she said. “It is because of my parents’ sacrifices that I am driven to do the very best I can in order to become an attorney and a person my parents are proud of.”
At Miami Law, Munoz is the secretary of the Hispanic Law Students Association, a member of the CABA Chapter, Miami Law Women, and First-Generation Law Association. Though she is not yet sure what area of law she will specialize in, Munoz knows she wants to practice in an area that she is passionate about, allowing her to give back to the community.