TAMPA -- Victoria Cruz-Garcia, an attorney with Givens Givens Sparks, awarded two scholarships in her name at the 10th annual Tampa Hispanic Bar Association (THBA) ceremony held last month at The Palma Ceia Golf and Country Club.
The THBA seeks to promote the exchange of information and ideas related to the practice of law in order to enhance its members’ knowledge and skills. THBA honored Cruz-Garcia by creating a scholarship in her name in 2014. The Cruz-Garcia Scholarship is for current students in a Florida law school who have demonstrated excellence in academics, shown a strong record of service to their community and have expressed a desire to remain in or return to the Tampa Bay area following completion of their legal studies.
Victoria Cruz-Garcia The Cruz-Garcia Scholarship is for current students in a Florida law school who have demonstrated excellence in academics, shown a strong record of service to their community, and have expressed a desire to remain in or return to the Tampa Bay area follow
Now in its third award year, the THBA board of directors has awarded the Cruz-Garcia scholarship to two recipients: Pamela Cordova (Stetson University College of Law) and Barbara Perez (Florida A&M University College of Law).
"When students submit their application, they must also include their work in the community," Victoria Cruz-Garcia told the Florida Record. "Usually applicants already express a passion for community service and demonstrate services they’ve provided in the Tampa Bay area."
As a part of the Tampa legal community, Cruz-Garcia is a former president of Tampa Hispanic Bar Association. She has also contributed to the diversity and richness of Florida’s legal community as a member of the diversity and inclusion committee for the Florida Bar Association.
Cruz-Garcia says her desire to pursue a career in law sprung from a trauma she endured at the age of 18.
“I ended up finally mustering the courage to attend law school and become an attorney because I was mugged at gunpoint," she said. "My initial experience with the judicial process was as a victim, and that trauma made me want to become a champion and pioneer."
She went on to earn her bachelor’s degree at Rutgers University where she studied Criminal Justice. She continued pursuing her legal career at Stetson College of Law where she earned her juris doctorate.
“After the mugging, the judge who presided over the case at the time encouraged me to pursue a legal career. He said there was 'just something about me'," she said. "It's so important to have a mentor to offer you a boost of confidence that allows you to believe you can achieve what you set your mind to. Maybe some of these scholarship candidates need that."
The Cruz-Garcia scholarship is awarded to two laws students for $1,000 each. Among meeting qualifying grading criteria, applicants must also be a law student of Hispanic origin who has resided or currently lives in the Tampa Bay area, is currently enrolled in law school in the state of Florida, and demonstrates a desirable interest in serving the Hispanic community in the area.
"For me personally, anything that has to do with education just means so much," Cruz-Garcia said. "My mother doesn’t know how to read or write, and I’m the first person in my family to go to college. The difference education can make in someone’s life is something I’ve lived through.”