By Andrew Cohen
Second-year Berkeley Law students Cristina Sepe and Criselda Haro will each receive a $10,000 scholarship after being named Latham & Watkins Diversity Scholars. They were among six law students chosen from more than 300 applicants nationwide.
The scholarship program aims to increase the number of diverse law students who pursue careers in a global law firm and practice in the United States. Selection criteria include academic and leadership achievements, as well as life experiences and challenges that have shaped their values. The other scholarship winners attend Harvard, Georgetown, Columbia, and USC law schools.
As an undergraduate at Stanford, Sepe received the school’s award for most outstanding public policy senior. She was also involved in Cap and Gown, an organization that connects women leaders to their communities through service and networking.
In law school, Sepe has been a judicial extern for U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer ’66, a researcher at the Center on Reinventing Public Education, and a student representative to Berkeley Law’s Financial Aid Committee. A fellow at the Congressional Hunger Center, she also co-chairs the law school’s Women of Color Collective and is a member of the California Law Review.
“I’ve been blessed by friends and mentors who have encouraged me,” Sepe said. “I’m supported and inspired by a community of passionate classmates who are working to better Berkeley Law and the world beyond.”
Sepe, whose family immigrated to the U.S. in her early childhood, graduated from “a high school dropout factory” outside Seattle and became a first-generation college student. She said the struggles faced by family members and classmates made clear “how inequality suffered by one generation, due to poverty and lack of education, leads to the inequality of opportunities for the next generation.”
Like Sepe, Haro is a member of the California Law Review and the Women of Color Collective, and also works for the Berkeley La Raza Journal. She received Berkeley Law’s Prosser Prize in Constitutional Law, and served as an extern for U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips ’82.
“I find the time and energy to juggle the activities I’m involved in because I genuinely care about all of them,” said Haro, who as a Swarthmore undergraduate edited the college’s Spanish literary magazine. “Any success I have as a law student comes from just being determined.”
Haro grew up in Southern California’s Inland Empire “in a neighborhood surrounded by gangs, drugs, violence, and prostitution.” In high school, she was selected to the Bright Prospect program, a community-based college access and success initiative for low-income high school students. She later co-founded the Bright Prospect Alumni Network, which connects college students and graduates to career opportunities and provides a structure for alumni to give back to the program.
“Not shying away from hard work or challenges is something I learned from my parents, who have physically worked hard all their lives and have struggled through difficult times,” Haro said. “When I set out to pursue a legal career, I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I was determined to succeed knowing how much my parents have sacrificed for me to be where I am.”
This summer, Haro will work at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe in Los Angeles and Sepe will work at Arnold & Porter in San Francisco.