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CLEO’s 2022 EDGE AWARDS Ceremony Showcases
Worthy Recipients of Pillars of CLEO Mission

Alexandria, VA – December 7, 2022 — More than 200 people attended (either in person or online) the Council on Legal Education Opportunity, Inc.’s (CLEO) 54th anniversary during  its fourth annual CLEO EDGE Honors Reception & Awards Program on Thursday, November 17, 2022.  At the event, five outstanding leaders were recognized for their noteworthy contributions to the legal profession and/or society through the lens of Education, Diversity, and Greater Equality. This year’s gathering was graciously hosted by Greenberg Traurig, a firm known for its focus on “philanthropic giving, innovation, diversity, and pro bono,” at its Washington, DC offices.

The ceremony included a welcome and opening remarks by CLEO’s new CEO Juan Carlos “JC” Polanco, Esq., MBA.  Additionally, the event encompassed:

  • Special Guest Remarks by Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD)
  • Presentation of the EDUCATION AWARD to José Bahamonde-González (posthumously)
  • Presentation of the DIVERSITY AWARD to Laurie Robinson Haden
  • Presentation of the GREATER EQUALITY AWARD to Jean Lee
  • Vickee Jordan Adams gave a tribute to her father, the late Vernon E. Jordan, Jr., for whom the CLEO EDGE Heritage Award is named
  • Individual presentations of the CLEO EDGE Vernon E. Jordan, Jr. Heritage Award to Hon. Letitia “Tish” James and Sherrilyn Ifill
  • Final Remarks by Samantha Ahuja, Greenberg Traurig, CLEO Advisory Council Member, and 2022 EDGE Honors Event Committee Chair

“I’m so excited to be part of this incredible [CLEO] team,”  said Polanco. “We’re focused daily on diversifying the legal profession. And, on shaping and forming the next group of attorneys. This year’s EDGE honorees exemplify CLEO’s mission and we’re proud to honor them.”

Congressman Raskin praised the organization saying, “CLEO is so much a part of that struggle today to make law an instrument of positive change and liberation and inclusion for all our peoples. I’m very proud of what you are doing to integrate, diversify, and equalize the legal profession…Not just in theory, not just in rhetoric, but in reality, and in practice in law schools…”

The evening continued with other powerful testimonials about CLEO from Attorneys James and Ifill, the 2022 Heritage Award recipients. James is the 67th Attorney General of the state of New York (NY State AG). Ifill recently stepped down as the seventh President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

NY State AG James declared, “CLEO is such a crucial organization for bringing young aspiring lawyers of color together with veteran attorneys who can offer direction and inspiration. Thank you, CLEO, for your service. I hope I have provided similar inspiration to all of you…I am truly humbled and honored.”

Now a law professor and speaker, Ifill stated, “I am grateful to CLEO for the extraordinary work that you are doing. It means so much that we have created an infrastructure that is there to support young people to enter this profession. But when you support them, remind them of what it means to take that oath…Remember what you [CLEO students] stand for.  Make sure you and they understand how central we [people of color] are to the saving and, hopefully, strengthening of our American democracy.”

CLEO very much looks forward to celebrating its milestone 55th Emerald Anniversary with a huge gala event in fall 2023! More details about this highly-anticipated affair will be shared soon.  In the interim, interested persons can view the entire 2022 celebration by visiting: https://youtu.be/jaVUYFnFxpQ

About the Council on Legal Education Opportunity, Inc.

CLEO, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization committed to diversifying the legal profession by expanding legal education opportunities for persons from traditionally under-represented racial and ethnic groups, low-income, and disadvantaged communities. Founded in 1968, when the number of lawyers of color was less than one percent, CLEO has since had more than 28,000 high school, college, prelaw, and law students participate in its programs. CLEO alumni have excelled in every area of the legal profession to include judges, corporate attorneys, law school deans and professors, practitioners, and politicians. More information about CLEO, its 50+ year history, and its programs can be found at https://cleoinc.org/ and https://cleoconnection.com.

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