New York, NY (March 22, 2017) – For the second year in a row, National Jurist has named a student from New York Law School (NYLS) a “Law Student of the Year.” Evening Division student Daniel “Danny” Oquendo is one of only 25 honorees selected from hundreds of law schools throughout the United States. Danny was recognized for his commitment to helping young people with disabilities while also pursuing a legal education to cultivate his advocacy skills.
Danny’s drive comes from personal tragedy, the death of his autistic younger brother Avonte. In October 2013, 14-year-old Avonte wandered from his Queens high school and disappeared. His body was found several months later. Danny advocated for his family throughout the tragedy, calling for policy changes that would make schools safer for students with disabilities. In 2014, the New York City Council passed Avonte’s Law to strengthen protections for special-needs students, and federal legislation—also named for Avonte—is pending.
“After his loss, Danny Oquendo channeled his energies into becoming an agent of change and chose the law as his vehicle. He is on his way to becoming an outstanding legal representative for children with disabilities, and we are tremendously proud of him,” said Anthony W. Crowell, Dean and President of New York Law School. “We congratulate him on this well-deserved national recognition.”
At NYLS, Danny is a Racial Justice Fellow focused on racial equity and education reform. He has also interned with Gary Mayerson, an attorney who specializes in helping children with disabilities. As a youth mentor in Maryland and New Jersey, Danny has worked closely with teens in urban and underserved communities.
Recently, INCLUDEnyc, a non-profit organization that works to improve access for young people with disabilities, honored Danny at its 2016 INCLUSION Awards Gala. He was presented with the 2016 McGuire Family Advocacy Award, given to a person who has demonstrated an outstanding dedication to serving young people with disabilities and who exemplifies the organization’s mission of inclusion, access, and equity for all youth with special needs.
“Being recognized for my work in the classroom and beyond is an honor and a privilege,” said Danny Oquendo. “I am grateful to Dean Crowell and to the professors, administrators, and fellow students who support me at New York Law School. They have given me the knowledge and resources necessary to continue down this path of advocacy and to help turn my family’s tragedy into work that benefits the special-needs community. I congratulate the other ‘Law Student of the Year’ awardees and wish them success.”
Danny has accepted a 2017 Summer Associate position at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, where he plans to further develop and diversify his legal experience as a means of fostering his advocacy skills for children with disabilities.