BYU Today

For the Public Good

The lessons Carolina Núñez learns in law school quickly find a place in people's lives.

Carolina Núñez

Carolina Núñez | Photo by Bradley Slade

When Carolina was just eight years old, she taught a nun how to pray. Growing up in Caracas, Venezuela, she attended a Catholic school and went to mass with her compañeras. “I don’t think I realized that I wasn’t Catholic,” laughs D. Carolina Núñez, ’01. When the curious nun asked little Carolina about Mormon prayers, the precocious child in the pleated white skirt gave a simple but clear answer: “You don’t have to memorize anything; you just talk to Him.” After a few more questions, the satisfied nun went on her way.

Núñez’s early immersion in the Latin culture and native fluency in Spanish have shaped her personality and goals, building in her a deep compassion and a strong commitment to serve. “I really want to help people. I want to do something that is needed, where my background in the Latino culture and my language skills will help some people who otherwise don’t have a lot of alternatives,” says Núñez, who is in her third year at the J. Reuben Clark Law School. Last year her peers elected Núñez president of the Latino Law Student Association, an organization centered on issues of the Hispanic community.

One of her favorite courses at the law school was a street law class taught by Susan White Griffith, ’84. For the class Núñez visited the Food and Care Coalition weekly and offered her budding legal services to its patrons. Most of the people there are regulars, but there are also young families—many of whom don’t speak English—that have temporarily fallen on hard times. Some were not even aware of their legal problems; others just needed guidance toward resources or help filling out paperwork. “The experience opened my eyes to the kind of needs that are in Provo. Sometimes you think that if you want to help people, you’ve got to do huge things and go out somewhere else, but there’s so much right here,” says Núñez.

She has also recognized and met needs within the law school community. As service chair of the Women’s Law Forum, Núñez continued a program that provides childcare to students who are also mothers at the law school, a service that is always in high demand, especially around final exams. She also successfully revived a mentorship program that pairs up incoming female and minority students with seasoned third-year law students willing to help.

Núñez stands out from other students—not only for her dedication to service, but also for her academic prowess. “Carolina approaches difficult legal questions with the humility and open-mindedness that is required to be an effective student of the law. She also has the work ethic and intellectual firepower that it takes to master difficult concepts, and to present her views in simple but forceful terms,” says associate professor of law Thomas R. Lee, ’98.

Last year Núñez started out as a staff member of the Brigham Young University Law Review and has since become the managing editor of administration. She is also currently completing an externship with the Utah Supreme Court this semester, where she writes opinions and conducts research for Chief Justice Christine Durham. In April Núñez was one of only two people in her class to receive the J. Reuben Clark Award, an honor citing her academic excellence, integrity, high ethical standards, and outstanding service.

Núñez feels a responsibility to use her talents and skills in the service of others because her life has been blessed: “I’ve had a lot of education that others in my situation may not have, and for that I really do owe the community. If there is something that I can give back, I will do it.”