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Finalist 1 – Gladys

Being a mother is the hardest job in the world we often hear. A job with a standing on-call status and one which is decorated with tears, frustrations, last minute project ideas, smiles, hugs, and high-fives. Being a mother of three boys aged 15, 13, and 7 has given me great practice and priceless tools– which I’ve realized migrated into my journey as a student.

I have learned to be budget savvy, in order to execute both the act of maintaining my household and supporting my education. I have seen my debate and mediation skills—it’s not simple to referee a disagreement between three boys with strong characters and the idea that they are “right”– present themselves in the classroom during lively discussions.

Being a mother has taught me balance–the same way I once balanced a baby, the baby bag, my purse, an umbrella, and a set of keys, I find I know have the immense responsibility of finding a healthy balance between my fulltime job at a congressional district office, a household with three boys, and my life as student, which is involves the mastery of three courses a semester. As mom I have lectured and set expectations with regards to the importance of deriving all that is possible out of an education. I have stood on a box and shouted(at my children) that the world is yours for the taking, that doors open and opportunities will fling themselves at you, if you only dedicate yourself to your education and getting the best, and then some, out of it.

Today this message is louder, clearer—with dedication and the aim of setting an example for my three boys I decided to return to school—but it wasn’t just “oh yeah, I’m taking a class..” it was a full-steam ahead dive into what I have touted all these years as a necessity towards personal and intellectual success. I started my education journey in 2011. Seven semesters later and with a 3.83 GPA, I will walk and accept my Associate in Science in Human Services on June 7th, 2014. Yet this is not the end for me, I am already enrolled in the Bachelor’s program and I am still looking ahead at the ultimate goal—that of opening my own practice as an Art Therapist/Psychologist.

During this journey I have seen myself land multiple times in both the Dean and President’s List, I have been extended two invitations to join national honor societies, I was named to the 2014 All-Connecticut Academic Team, and after joining the New England Organization for Human Services, I was awarded a $500 Student Education Grant at their Annual Conference, in addition to being elected as a Student Representative/NEOHS Board member. I have succeeded in showing my sons that hard work DOES pay off, yet I have also shown through this experience the immense struggles & sacrifices a parent makes to better the lives of their family.

I am 31 years old, Hispanic, a single mother(once a teen mom) of three, daughter of a recovering addict, raised in the inner city on welfare benefits- yet I refused to accept and let these be the only labels I carry. Today, I am a woman, assertive and opinioned, a student, a leader, a voice, an example of what someone who is dedicated and committed to their own betterment can attain.
Being a mother has blessed me with patience and has nurtured my drive. It is because I am called “MOM” that I am able to gather strength, where there may be none left, why I want to change my children’s world to what I believe they deserve. On June 7th I will cross the stage for my sons, for my family, for me because of my sons, my family and my hard work. It is with their unwavering support that I took on my role as student and it is with them in mind that I strive for the best. I accepted and have, thus far, survived just a small portion on the job of mother (this job never ends) and frankly after this, I feel like I can survive and overcome anything.

I remain committed in my education journey because I am worth my education, I am worth all my dreams, and I am worth the opportunity at something better. I don’t see quitting as an option because I have instilled in my children the same sentiment. I am strong because of them, and for them- becoming a mother made me invincible. Yet all this drive and commitment can come to a halt if I am forced to choose between continuing my education and providing for my family—an issue that is all too real to single parents everywhere. As a mother who works fulltime and has been deemed ineligible for any kind of social service program assistance I am forced to go on this journey while relying on my sole and paid monthly income. In order to make sure I can continue my education journey I have balanced and re-balance an already strained and tight budget, I plan meals, shop smart, visit thrift stores and ride on public transportation. I am also actively looking for additional financial opportunities which will help me finance my journey. I know I can do this, I just need a small help to help me realize my dreams of a higher education degree.

Like Nelson Mandela once said: “It always seems impossible until it is done.” It may appear as impossible now, but I have no doubt I WILL get it done.