Nicole T.S. Cortes & Jessica Mayo

Nicole Cortés and Jessica Mayo began their journey of joint civic engagement when the two met at Washington University; Nicole was pursuing a joint degree in Social Work and Law and Jessica was a first-year law student. They immediately connected over their shared passion for serving immigrant communities within the context of law and justice. Of course, neither woman was a stranger to civil service. Jessica had previously devoted her energies to various local immigrant attorneys, Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, and a position leading service trips and home repairs in West Virginia, among other projects. Nicole’s commitment to service had developed through work with grassroots organizations in Mexico and Chile, social work practica, and internships with organizations such as Interfaith Legal Services for Immigrants.

Within the School of Law, both women engaged with the Immigration Law Society and other student groups focused on public interest law. They soon began dreaming of a future career that would allow them to truly effect social change and positively impact the lives of immigrants in the St. Louis area. They shared a desire not entirely commonplace among WU law students: to remain in the area and apply their education locally. Nicole and Jessica had observed the gaps in existing services available to immigrants, and in response, the Migrant and Immigrant Community Action (MICA) Project was born.

The MICA Project, which began operations in September 2012, is a nonprofit community organization committed to working with low-income immigrants to overcome barriers to justice. Their model utilizes legal services, education, and a network of service providers to advocate for immigrants communities and preserve human dignity. The MICA Project promises to continue developing as an organization integral to social justice in St. Louis, thanks to Nicole and Jessica’s tenacity and passion. As expressed by their nominator, Jing Geng, Harris Institute Fellow at the WU School of Law, “Nicole Cortés and Jessica Mayo are builders of their own dreams.”

Both Nicole and Jessica have recently started, and are continuing to expand, their families, bringing them great joy outside of their fulfilling professional