At a ceremony that took place on Thursday, September 20, 2007 at the Rhode Island State House, Vladimir Ibarra was awarded the inaugural AP&S Diversity Scholarship. The $10,000 scholarship was initiated as part of the firm’s Diversity Plan in order to encourage and assist a minority student entering his/her first year of law school, with the ultimate goal of diversifying the legal profession as well as the firm.
The scholarship process began in January and by June, 27 applications had been received. Pamela Berman, chair of the AP&S Diversity Committee, noted how difficult the selection process was in that, “All the finalists had outstanding credentials, all had been accepted at a variety of law schools throughout the East, and brought a very diverse representation that included coming from Haiti, Rwanda, Colombia, Kenya and New England.” The recipient, Vladimir Ibarra, is enrolled as a first-year law student at Roger Williams University School of Law.
Vladimir immigrated with his mother to the United States from Colombia when he was 14 years old to escape the violence and drug wars that made their lives unbearable. When he came to this country, Vladimir spoke only Spanish and was unfamiliar with our customs and culture. He quickly learned English as his second language, successfully completed high school, became a U.S. citizen, and pursued his higher education at the Community College of Rhode Island and Roger Williams University, graduating with a B.S. in Criminal Justice and Social & Health Services. He graduated CCRI with honors and was named to the Dean’s List at both schools. A resident of Central Falls, Vladimir began his career at the Channel One-Central Falls Community Center. For the past four years, he has served as Community Affairs and Constituent Services Director in the Lt. Governor’s Office and worked as Supervisor of the Small Business Advocacy Council. His service with the Volunteers in Providence Schools resulted in his being awarded the VIPS 2006 Mentor of the Year Award. He is a member of the board of directors of the Rhode Island Latino Political Action Committee and Civic Fund, which aims to increase minority participation in the civic and political process in order to improve the quality of life in urban communities.
Those who know Vladimir well reference his “show of compassion for others and a commitment to community service, having a strong work ethic, being extremely well organized and bright, and having an extraordinary depth of knowledge of the cultural complexities needed to deal with the variety of communities across our state.” His hope for his future legal career is to bring his past experiences and personal strength in serving as an advocate for the indigent and immigrant community.
At the award ceremony that took place in the Governor’s State Room, a number of State officials and judges, Roger Williams Law School faculty and administrators, community leaders, and family and friends were on hand to offer congratulations for what was described as “a historic moment in Rhode Island’s legal profession.” Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Roberts praised AP&S for “using their leadership position in the legal arena in Rhode Island to highlight this important issue for the Rhode Island community.”
Rhode Island Supreme Court Chief Justice Frank Williams spoke about the importance of diversity in the legal profession from his perspective on the bench. He stated, “As our American culture becomes more diverse, so, too, must our legal profession become more diverse.” He added, “In three years, Vladimir will be at the helm to help guide this great land back to the vision of its Founders &and be equipped to ensure that no person is denied justice, regardless of race, gender or economic status.”
Walter Stone, a shareholder at AP&S and member of the Diversity Committee, reflected on his own challenges as a minority attorney over the past several decades, but added that they couldn’t compare to the struggles experienced by so many of the scholarship applicants. “Vladimir’s life story of his torturous journey from the inner city streets of Colombia to his subsequent successful new life in America is a positive testament to a strong will and determination,” stated Stone. “I think he will bring passion, life experience, and a unique sense of vision that is often lacking in the legal profession.” In presenting the scholarship award to Vladimir, Stone called upon Vladimir’s mother to accept the award along with him, stating, “Vladimir’s mother has been his role model and deserves much of the credit for his success to date and his vision for the future.”
AP&S Managing Shareholder Mark O. Denehy adds, “Through this scholarship and other endeavors that are part of the firm’s Diversity Initiative, Adler Pollock & Sheehan is proud to be at the forefront of efforts to diversify and enrich the legal profession in this region.”