Claudia Ojeda has volunteered for Habitat for Humanity since high school because she believes “home is at the center of everything.”
At age 7, her own home was uprooted when she and her parents fled Cuba for Miami, Florida.
“From then on, it was starting a new life in the U.S.,” she says, adding that her mother left behind a successful medical practice, and her father a military career. Her parents’ focus was to set Claudia up for success in America, and her first step was to learn English. “I was always applied in my studies, because to my parents it was, ‘We came here for you so it’s your own efforts to succeed.’”
She did well in school, volunteered for Habitat, and attended the University of Florida (UF) with a Bright Futures scholarship, which goes to students with good grades and test scores and a commitment to community service.
Claudia discovered her love for debate through UF’s mock trial team, then shadowed lawyers at the Chicago office of DLA Piper through a program for students interested in law. When she decided it was her calling, “Of course, my parents were thrilled,” she says.
Claudia wanted a law school that would make her feel plugged in and connected to the community, and she found that at GW Law. In her first year, she’s felt supported by her professors and school leadership, in particular an instructor who encouraged her through a difficult contracts course. Her perseverance has paid off in the form of scholarship funding, including the Morgan Lewis Foundation Diversity Scholarship, an award from Morgan, Lewis & Bockius that goes to students in need from diverse backgrounds.
Claudia plans to join a litigation firm that values diversity and has a strong pro bono practice so she can make time to give back to the community. “To receive a generous gift like that from someone who doesn’t even know me—I definitely want to pay that forward in the future.”—Amanda Charney