Law Students of the Year: Luis Canales, Villanova University

When Luis Canales was 16 years old, he fled gang violence in his native Honduras, making the trip to the U.S., not once, but four times. On Jan. 13, 2005, he made it into the U.S. and was released to a family member living in Scranton, Pa. He had traveled almost 7,500 miles in the same pair of shoes — shoes that are still with him.

Canales’ case was active with immigration for five and a half years before he was granted asylum. A week after his final hearing, he started college at Marywood University in Scranton.

Now a third year law student at Villanova University School of Law, Canales has become a passionate advocate for refugees. He is a student representative at Villanova’s Clinic for Asylum, Refugee and Emigrant Services (CARES) where he and fellow student, Ruby Khallouf ’17, represent clients in immigration court under the supervision of Professor Michele Pistone, founding director of the clinic. 

In September 2016, he was invited to share his story at the United Nations as part of its Summit for Refugees and Migrants. Canales brought along those fateful shoes, which carried him from peril to freedom as a teen.

“I believe in paying it forward," he said. "Sometimes we cannot help en masse, but we can do it on a personal level. It creates change. I want to continue my walk and see how far I get.”

Canales is one of 25 future lawyers honored in the National Jurist’s 2017 “Law Students of the Year” feature. Find more honorees here

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