Stories from Our Community

From homelessness to Stanford Law – first generation student joins law school pipeline program

When Luis Moros arrived in the United States from Venezuela with his mother, he was 14 and spoke almost no English. For more than a year, they moved from one homeless shelter to another.

It was a hard existence, but Moros says his mother, facing her own challenges as a single mom, never gave up on him and his dream of pursuing an education and, eventually, a career in politics.

Anytime he heard “no” it was not a rejection of him, she would say, it was a “new opportunity” presenting itself.

Moros took those words to heart and, now as a junior and Honors College student at FIU pursuing a dual degree in political science and public affairs, he has seized upon each new opportunity in a way that continues to inspire his peers and mentors.

Not only has he interned with the U.S. House of Representatives, the Cato Institute and the Organization of American States, this summer, Moros was one of only 20 students accepted from around the nation for the inaugural class of the Stanford Law Scholars Institute (SLSI) at Stanford University.

The institute is a new leadership and law school pipeline program designed to support and train college undergraduates who want to explore a career in law.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,’’ said Moros, 20, who is interning in Washington, D.C., this summer with the Bipartisan Policy Center. “I really didn’t expect as a first-generation college student to be accepted into a program at the second-highest ranked law school in the country. It was life-changing.’’

The students spent two weeks at Stanford, living in the dorms and experiencing life as a law student, including taking classes, meeting with current students and professors and learning everything from how to apply to law school to deciding on a career path.

The program is specifically designed to address obstacles that underrepresented minority, first-generation or low-income undergraduate students might face in accessing a law school education.

“I think the program helps to demystify law school by giving students an early peek at what the experience would be like, putting them in touch with professors and current law students that can serve as mentors,’’ said Diego Zambrano, an associate professor of law at Stanford who served as Moros’ faculty mentor.

“Our hope is that this will make it easier for excellent undergraduate students like Luis to both apply to law school and also to attend with a deeper understanding of the law.”

Beyond the academic and social activities of the week on campus, the SLSI cohort will receive assistance with the law school application process, including a free LSAT preparation course and ongoing coaching until they enter law school. In addition, the program provides online training, a speakers’ series and office hours with faculty mentors throughout the course of the following year.

Moros has already made his mark in many areas of FIU – receiving numerous awards and scholarships for student leadership, as well as being named a Millennium Fellow, a Hamilton Scholar through FIU in DC and a founding fellow and student ambassador for the recently launched Maurice A. Ferré Institute for Civic Leadership.

Agatha Caraballo, founding director of the Ferré Institute, said Moros embodies the same spirit of servant leadership that Ferré modeled as mayor of Miami.

“Luis Moros is an exceptional young man with boundless potential, passionate and committed to public service and civic engagement,’’ she said. “As a Ferré Institute fellow and chair of our engagement committee, Luis organized several workshops on civic literacy and leadership and led a multi-disciplinary student group that ranked #13 in the nationwide It’s Up to Us competition to increase civic literacy and awareness on campus.”

“Luis continues to inspire me and many others with his dedication and drive to make the world a better place for all,’’ she added.

Through his work with policymakers in D.C., Moros hopes to help other immigrants learn to navigate the U.S. educational system, become civically engaged and pursue their dreams, whatever they may be.

He is writing two books – one in Spanish to demystify the American educational system for Hispanic students new to the U.S. and the other titled, “The Art of Persuasion and the Unknown Skill to Have a Successful Career" – about effective communication and how persuasion can be a tool to succeed – that will be published in December.

Zambrano, who teaches civil procedure at Stanford, said Moros is already well on his way to fulfilling his dreams.

Like Moros, Zambrano immigrated to the United States from Venezuela when he was 14.

“I see in Luis a wonderful example of all the talented people who have been forced to leave Venezuela,’’ he said. “Luis’ story is a deeply American story, arriving to American shores in pursuit of a better life.

“He represents some of the best qualities of immigrants to this country. I’m sure he’ll make an excellent law student, attorney, and future leader.”