When students with few resources to obtain representation need an attorney, they have a determined, skilled advocate in Luz Maria Henriquez. The attorney obtained a grant to start the Education Justice Program at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, which seeks to achieve education equity and racial justice for children, and to dismantle the “school-to-prison pipeline.” She has also received national recognition by being selected to serve on the advisory board of the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law’s Racial Justice Training Institute, which trains advocates to advance a racial justice agenda.
What are your proudest career accomplishments?
Obtaining a favorable opinion denying a school district’s motion to dismiss for a matter that I am lead counsel on involving the due process rights of a student transferred into a significantly different and inferior educational program as a disciplinary measure. I also felt very proud after receiving a hug from another student and his mother after I represented the student at a school disciplinary proceeding, and the student told me “Thank you. No one has ever fought for me like you did in there.”
What inspired you to get involved in the public service or justice system?
As the U.S. born daughter of two Mexican immigrants who lived in the shadows for some time, along with other undocumented immigrants, I grew up witnessing racial injustices which led to racial inequity. I knew I had to take part in fighting against such injustices.
What is the best advice you have given or received?
The best advice I have received is “comfort is the enemy.” Challenging the status quo and making progress is not comfortable. I pursue my work with this in mind daily.
What is something that would surprise people about you?
I moved to St. Louis not knowing a single person in Missouri, after having practiced law for several years at a large New York firm handling complex commercial litigation matters.
When you were growing up, what did you want to be?
I wanted to be an attorney growing up. I knew I wanted to focus on civil rights. I was always inspired hearing attorneys from the ACLU and the California Rural Legal Assistance program speaking at news conferences.