2021 Tillman Scholar

Maria Fernanda Palacios Herrera

Military Spouse
Saint Mary's University

My passion to become a public interest attorney stems from personal and professional aspirations to tear down oppressive systemic barriers and advocate for effecting permanent change for vulnerable populations.”

As a daughter of Mexican immigrants raised in a low-income, mixed legal status home, Fernanda developed her passion for helping communities in need at a young age. Since discovering her calling, she has been a devoted and passionate trauma-informed advocate and has worked on behalf of immigrants and impoverished communities for the last nine years.

She began her community engagement working with refugees, asylees, victims of domestic violence, and survivors of human trafficking as a Department of Justice (DOJ) accredited representative at Refugee Services of Texas and later at American Gateways. During that time, she served and represented neglected indigent populations who otherwise would have no access to quality legal services. She is now pursuing her J.D. at St. Mary’s University School of Law and aspires to become an immigration attorney. While in law school, she has continued seeking opportunities to serve underrepresented communities through pro bono advocacy.

She has also worked with various organizations providing legal services to indigents, including helping asylum seeking victims of gender-based persecution during her Equal Justice Works student fellowship at The Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, and is currently providing legal services  to low-income communities in Massachusetts as a summer 2021 student attorney with The Harvard Legal Aid Bureau. Through her experiences, Fernanda has learned that dedication, passion, and drive can spark change and empower others to work alongside each other for prosperity. She will continue to use her skills to provide fervent legal representation to impoverished communities.