As an undergraduate Bea Serrano did a lot of soul searching. "I grew up often lacking the fundamentals of a secure and stable childhood. My mother died when I was very young. I attribute my success to the advocates in the public service arena who inspired hope within me and alleviated my burdens, ultimately changing the course of my life." Public service is at her core.
Bea graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice from the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she had the opportunity, under the Criminal Justice Department, to engage in research on how immigrant battered women seek help following domestic abuse. She pursued paralegal studies and later joined a firm as a Pro Bono Coordinator and Chair of the firm's Pro Bono Legal Clinic sponsored through the Chicago Volunteer Legal Services Foundation (CVLS). Focusing on pro bono cases with volunteer attorneys and student interns in her community, earned her the CVLS Distinguished Service Award in 2005 and led to her appointment as a Board of Directors Member by the organization. Bea's public service also had her volunteering with the National Immigrant Justice Center on U-VISA, VAWA and asylum cases, and at Deborah's Place Shelter for Women in Chicago. In 2010, Bea was awarded the Chicago Bar Association's Liberty Bell Award, for non-lawyer's exemplary community service, for her work on an international child-abduction case at the Hague Convention.
While working as a Pro Bono Coordinator, Bea's responsibilities included organizing and staffing the firm's monthly legal clinic, an experience she describes as "absolutely amazing," but she felt limited. "I was doing interview intakes, finding attorneys to work the cases, translating for legal parties, but I couldn't go to court. I couldn't sign papers. I couldn't give legal advice. Bea was determined to break the glass ceiling, and decided to go to law school to become an attorney. "People questioned why I would leave a cushy job, but I felt there was more for me out there and I was driven to go get it. I want to reach out to communities that don't have a voice. What about women? What about single moms? Someone has to be an advocate for them, and I want it to be me."
The decision to attend NSU Law was an easy one for Bea, whose daughter is an undergraduate at NSU. "Family time now is studying together. My daughter and I will bring each other coffee between classes, or remind the other about a deadline. It's really nice to be able to spend time with her in that way."
Bea is part of NSU Law's Public Interest Law Society (PILS) and works tirelessly on the annual PILS Auction, a fund-raiser for stipends for students to work in public interest in the summer. Through her involvement with PILS, she got to know Professor Michael Richmond, faculty advisor for the student organization, who introduced her to the pro bono community in Florida, and Anthony Karrat, the Executive Director of Legal Aid Service of Broward County.
Currently, Bea works at a local law firm to help support her family while she pursues law school. She believes in paying it forward, and currently houses a young woman who was interested in going to law school and invited to participate in NSU Law's AAMPLE® program. "She's now a first-year law student and lives with my daughter and me," she beams. "There is so much possibility at NSU Law. Everyone deserves a chance to excel! As for me, I will always be involved in pro bono work."