(San Francisco, 5/30/2023) - Keker, Van Nest & Peters has awarded $100,000 in scholarship funds to its 2023 recipients Sandra Ascencio, Ju Lee, Dominick Williams, and Trudy-Ann Williamson. As a part of the firm’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, it provides underrepresented first-year law students with scholarship grants, academic and professional mentorship, and invitations to participate in legal education courses, speaker series, and other professional development opportunities. Since the inception of its Diversity Scholars Program in 2011, Keker, Van Nest & Peters has awarded nearly $500,000 to deserving law students nationwide.
“Through these scholarships, we aim to empower underrepresented law students to pursue their dreams, to continue challenging norms and breaking barriers, and to make lasting impacts in our legal community,” said Franco Muzzio, Keker, Van Nest & Peters associate and member of the firm’s Diversity Scholarship Committee. “Each recipient’s journey is a testament to the strength of their character and their unwavering pursuit of excellence. We’re excited to support their academic and professional endeavors.”
The firm honored its 2023 and 2022 scholarship recipients at a celebration on May 18. More information about each scholar is detailed below.
Sandra Ascencio is a first-year J.D. candidate at Columbia Law School, where she is a member of the Society for Law, Science, and Technology and serves on the Executive Board of the Latinx Law Students Association. Before law school, Sandra was a paralegal and an SEO Law Fellow at international law firms. She also volunteered as a binational ambassador for the Mexican Secretariat of Foreign Affairs, examining socioeconomic challenges faced by indigenous communities and small businesses. While pursuing her B.A. in political science from UC Berkeley, she served as a forum director, leading a team that aimed to increase the visibility of Latin American current affairs through panels with distinguished speakers. Sandra is a recipient of the California Lawyers Association’s Wiley W. Manuel Award for Pro Bono Service and Meta, Inc.’s Project Height Scholarship.
Ju Lee is a first-year J.D. candidate at UC Law San Francisco, formerly known as UC Hastings, where she’s active in various student groups including the Legal Educations Opportunity Program, Hastings Business Law Society, and the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association. While pursuing her B.A. in Korean studies from UCLA, Ju served as an intern for the Coalition for Human Immigrant Rights where she advocated for DACA policies as a speaker with United We Dream and in the media. Ju is an ABA Legal Opportunity Scholarship recipient.
Dominick Williams is a first-year J.D. candidate at UC Berkeley School of Law where he serves as editor-in-chief of the Berkeley Journal of African-American Law & Policy and as an associate editor for the Berkeley Technology Law Journal. Prior to law school, Dominick served as a legislative analyst for the California Secretary of State and the office of California Assemblymember Shirley Weber. While pursuing his B.A. in political science from UC Berkeley, Dominick served as a legislative director for the Associated Students where he authored a state budget proposal that secured $22.5 million in funding to student-initiated opportunity programs. He also served as an intern for Congresswoman Barbara Lee of the U.S. House of Representatives. Dominick is a Dean’s Fellowship, California Black Caucus Foundation Scholarship, and BARBRI Law Preview Scholarship recipient.
Trudy-Ann Williamson is a first-year J.D. candidate at UC Law San Francisco, where she’s a member of the Black Law Students Association. Williamson serves as a mentor educating youth on legal rights and careers for the Law Empowerment Access Project. She supports the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program where she assists low-income taxpayers with tax returns. Trudy-Ann holds an M.S. in human resource development and B.A. in psychology from Villanova University. While excelling academically, Trudy-Ann also she earned numerous awards for her record-breaking talents as a NCAA Division I women’s track team member. Trudy-Ann is a Legal Education Opportunity Program Scholarship recipient.
Heidi Kong is a second-year J.D. candidate at UC Berkeley, School of Law. She currently serves as the senior online editor of the California Law Review, the co-editor-in-chief of the Asian American Law Journal, and an articles editor of the Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law. Heidi has contributed to various pro bono projects such as the Political and Election Empowerment Project. She is co-chair of Families at Berkeley Law, an organization that offered financial wellness, wills, and estate planning resources to the campus community. With generous support from the Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice, Heidi and the Coalition for Diversity at Berkeley Law have started “Calling Out Hate,” a project aimed at hate crime prevention. Heidi earned her J.B.A and B.A. in journalism and international relations from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she was a voice for students on campus radio and an advocate for students of color as chair of the Asian Pacific American Council and member of the Multicultural Student Coalition. She earned her M.A. in Asian studies at the University of California, Berkeley. As a doctoral student, she received a Fulbright Fellowship to conduct research in China.
Brenda Gonzalez is a second-year J.D. candidate at Albany Law School. Brenda is a Government Law Center Fellow and works in the Community Economic Development Clinic where she serves local constituents from underprivileged or marginalized backgrounds in the community to launch their own businesses and start-ups. Brenda has led a Critical Race Theory symposium for two years at Albany Law, and founded the Bell Collective, a student-lead organization focusing on Critical Race Theory and the Law. She is also currently a board member of the New York Historical Law Society. Brenda is a proud daughter of Mexican immigrant parents, and she is passionate about immigration reform, ending police brutality, and criminal justice reform. Brenda earned her B.A. in international relations and French and Francohpone studies from Mills College.
Maripau Paz is a second-year J.D. candidate at UC Berkeley School of Law. She serves as the editor-in-chief of La Raza Law Journal and as an article editor for California Law Review. She is also a member of the Mock Trial team and the International Human Rights Law Clinic. Maripau also serves on the board of directors for the Human Trafficking Legal Network where she connects lawyers and advocates with pro bono opportunities to advance initiatives that protect foster youth from exploitation. Maripau earned her B.A. in political science and global studies from UCLA.
Sheila Zerang is a second-year J.D. candidate at UC Law San Francisco, where she’s a member of Iranian Law Students Association, UC Hastings Outlaw, and the Women’s Law Society. Sheila earned her B.A. in sociology and Iranian studies from UCLA. During her undergraduate studies, she worked as a paralegal in a prominent business litigation firm, as well as an immigration firm. Beyond the classroom and professional setting, Sheila served as a board member and outreach director of Raha International for four years. Raha is an Iranian LGBTQ non-profit organization in the United States that teaches allyship, hosts support groups, open panel discussions and workshops addressing the challenges of queer individuals. Sheila is the recipient of scholarships from UC Law San Francisco LEOP, Barbri, and Iranian American Bar Association.
About Keker, Van Nest & Peters:
For 45 years, Keker, Van Nest & Peters has litigated complex, high-stakes civil and criminal cases throughout the nation. The firm takes the cases where companies, products, and careers hinge on the result. Its clients are high-profile individuals, as well as some of the world’s most successful companies, including Google, Facebook, Electronic Arts, Lyft, Genentech, Comcast, and Qualcomm. The firm’s areas of expertise include intellectual property, professional liability, class actions, general contract and commercial litigation, antitrust, white collar, and appellate. The firm is passionate about increasing the diversity of the legal profession.