P.D. Soros Fellowship for New Americans


Cinthia Zavala Ramos, 2023

JD, New York University (NYU)

Cinthia Zavala Ramos is an immigrant from Honduras

Fellowship awarded to support work towards a JD at New York University (NYU)

Cinthia was born in Santa Cruz de Yojoa, Honduras to Gilberto Zavala and Cecilia Ramos, two farmers in rural Honduras. In 2005, escaping imminent gang violence and hoping to join her parents who had migrated earlier, Cinthia, her younger siblings, and her grandma hired a coyote and made the trek on foot into the United States. Cinthia was only six and her youngest sibling had just turned three. On their second try, they crossed into San Antonio, where they were detained by ICE in a detention center without food for three days. Ever since then, Cinthia’s life has been altered by the material and legal realities that followed the nature of her crossing. She and her family settled in a trailer park in South Carolina, following the construction boom in the area and the demand for cheap labor. Growing up in these conditions money was scarce, but the importance of education was stressed. Cinthia, the oldest, became the first to graduate from elementary school and the first to learn English and to properly read and write. Cinthia’s parents had only been able to finish the third grade in rural Honduras.

While in South Carolina, Cinthia saw her family and community fall prey to deportation, exploitation, and violence at the hands of the government. Moreover, because of the nativist and anti-immigrant sentiment at the height of the 2016 election, Cinthia and her family became victims of stalking, harassing, and tampering from their neighbors. Law enforcement refused to get involved and Cinthia found a small bank and a real estate agent to help her family leave the trailer park. During this time, Cinthia fully submitted herself to school and extracurricular activities, earning 73 credits at her local community college while taking on 11 AP classes. She knew no future existed for her in South Carolina and she made every effort to get out.

In 2016, Cinthia was admitted early to Yale University with full financial aid. In May 2017, she gave a viral valedictory speech outing her status as a Dreamer, which catalyzed conversation in her state about education for undocumented students. At Yale, Cinthia double majored in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology and ethnicity, race, and migration. During her time there, she served as a student leader and co-moderated the Chicanx student activist group MEChA de Yale for over two years. She also spent her breaks taking on internships on Capitol Hill with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, community organizations, and legal nonprofits like Asylum Seeker’s Advocacy Organization, and Central American Legal Assistance. She worked closely with fellow undocumented immigrants and immigration attorneys to submit I-589 asylum claims for immigrants and file hundreds of DACA renewal applications.

Due to the circumstance surrounding her and her family’s status in this country, from a young age, Cinthia knew she wanted to be in the legal field. In 2022 that became a reality. Cinthia is enrolled at NYU Law as an AnBryce Scholar, a full-tuition scholarship based on academic merit, leadership, and socioeconomic adversity.

As a law student at NYU, Cinthia is pursuing coursework to prepare her for the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at NYU and is involved in various student affinity groups. After law school, Cinthia aims to use her education and platform to place undocumented perspectives at the center of the immigration conversation, and to shape the legal codes that confine her world and that of 11 million others.

  • BA Ethnicity, Race, and Migration, Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology | Yale University
  • JD | New York University (NYU)
  • AnBryce Scholar
  • Yale Law School Liman Summer Fellowship
  • Sauber Family Summer Fellowship in Genomics and Genetics
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