April 14, 2014 | Volume XXI, Issue 14

3L featured in CABA video, grateful for mentorship, scholarship

Published: February 25th, 2013

Category: News

http://www.law.ufl.edu/flalaw/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/fernandezedit.jpg

Keith Fernandez was an invited guest of the University of Miami’s Government Affairs Office and the Romney campaign in an election series event in September 2012. (Photo courtesy of Keith Fernandez)

By Jenna Box
Student writer

The Fernandez family has come full circle.

It started with their days in Cuba – where Keith Fernandez’s grandparents Miguel and Eloisa Fernandez received only an elementary education – to the present day, where Keith Fernandez will graduate with his juris doctorate from UF Law in May.

As if completing law school is not enough, the 25-year-old 3L who is currently studying away at Florida International University was featured in a video at a Cuban-American Bar Association Gala Feb. 2. He has received two scholarships from the organization during his time in law school.

The yearly CABA gala raises money for the Cuban American Bar Foundation, which provides scholarships and mentors to worthy law students throughout Florida.

“The Cuban American Bar Foundation has been instrumental in my law school career,” Fernandez said in the video presented at the gala. “And mentorship has even, just kind of, sweetened the deal.”

When two of Fernandez’s friends approached him about an email concerning the foundation’s scholarship opportunities he applied. In the application, he said he worked hard to make his passion known about advocating for human rights in his grandparents’ homeland.

Throughout Fernandez’s time at UF Law, he participated in the Latino/a Law Student Association and advocated for human rights in Cuba. He also co-authored a petition, which garnered national attention, that urged the Pope to meet with civil society leaders during his visit to Cuba in 2012.

He said UF Law makes all students feel welcome on campus and empowers them to pursue their goals

“The Gator Nation gave me the tools I needed to continue to advocate for human rights on the island,” Fernandez said.

He also attributed his success to his mentors.

One mentor, Marco Leyte-Vidal, attorney-at-law, said his mentee’s personal and political dedication to the Cuban cause was outstanding. Leyte-Vidal said Keith Fernandez’s performance as a Gator in and out of the classroom made him proud.

“It is students like Keith who give me faith in our future. His dedication to the profession of law and our community is inspiring,” Bertila Soto, chief circuit judge of Florida’s 11th Circuit, wrote in an email. “He is truly an asset to our community and our profession!”

Fernandez said he just hopes all of his hard work is a fitting tribute to his grandparents, who gave up their lives in Cuba to give him and their other grandchildren the opportunity to move from a working-class family to professional careers.

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