This February, Esteban Rodriguez took the helm as NLSLA’s Board Chair. Rodriguez replaces Paul Loh, who led the Board and the organization through a period of remarkable change and unprecedented growth. Loh remains a member of the board, serves as Chairman of the Governance Committee, and plans to continue to support the organization and its advocacy in the years to come.
“It was truly an honor to help guide NLSLA as the organization reached further into the communities it serves and significantly increased its reach and its impact,” Loh said. “The heart of NLSLA is its dedicated, talented advocates, and I look forward to continuing to support their work as a member of the board.”
Rodriguez, who first joined the board in 2016 , has deep ties to the communities NLSLA serves.
“I see myself, and my family, in NLSLA’s clients,” he said.
The son of undocumented immigrants from Mexico, Rodriguez grew up in predominantly Latinx, low-income neighborhoods in Santa Ana.
“I saw firsthand how people from low-income backgrounds, immigrants, the elderly, and people with disabilities are often left out of the system,” he said. He joined NLSLA’s board in 2016 to lend his expertise and support to an organization that was working each and every day to ensure that vulnerable people are not left behind.
Rodriguez’s parents were both born in Mexico, and immigrated to the United States in the 1970s. They lived in East Los Angeles and Long Beach before moving to Orange County. Rodriguez was the first in his family to graduate from college.
When he first arrived at Stanford Law School, he felt “like a fish out of water.”
“A lot of the students came from very privileged backgrounds. They were predominantly white—the children of US senators, federal judges, doctors, university professors,” he said. “My background could not be any more different.”
Although he quickly realized he belonged at Stanford—where he served as editor of the Stanford Law & Policy Review—Rodriguez has remained cognizant of the fact that he comes from a very different world than most of the people in his profession.
While still in school, he worked on behalf of people sentenced under California’s three-strikes law, who were serving long or life sentences, often for nonviolent crimes.
NLSLA’s leadership and staff’s lived experiences makes their ability to meet the needs of Los Angeles’s low-income communities more personal and effective.