Civil rights advocate M. Lorena González honored with Distinguished Alumnus Award

Yakima Valley College has selected M. Lorena González, legislative director of political strategies for the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington state, as the 2024 recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Award.

The award provides recognition to an alumnus who attended YVC for a minimum of three quarters, earned at least 45 credits, and has distinguished themselves in a positive manner. Established in 1982 and first conferred to Catherine May Bedell, the award has been presented to a variety of notable graduates of YVC. The selection is made by the President’s Office from nominations submitted by faculty, staff, students and community members.

González is a nationally recognized attorney, civil rights leader, and was the first Latina member of Seattle’s City Council. In her current role at the ACLU Washington, she provides strategic counsel to a cross-departmental, integrated advocacy team on multiple, complex constitutional and civil liberties issues within local and state government.

The daughter of immigrant parents from Mexico, she earned her first paycheck at eight years old working beside her five brothers and sisters. Growing up in the Yakima Valley as a migrant farm worker, she worked and relied on scholarships and need-based grants, including Pell grants and work study, to attend Yakima Valley College and Washington State University before moving to Seattle in 2002 to attend Seattle University Law School.

“My academic experience at YVC enriched my ability to pursue my higher-education goals and ultimately pursue a career of public service,” said González. “As a first-generation college student, YVC offered me a secure, affordable and viable path to launch my studies close to home and set me up for future success.”

González dedicated countless hours to volunteering and helping those in need when she developed a community-private partnership to organize a free monthly bilingual legal clinic, which has provided legal services to more than 2,000 low-income Seattle residents since 2007. Since then, other organizations have duplicated this legal clinic model throughout the city to serve other underrepresented communities.

González served on the Seattle City Council from 2015 – 2021 and is a past president of the Latina/o Bar Association of Washington’s (LBAW) Board of Directors and was a member of that board from 2003–2008. In 2009, the Hispanic National Bar Association recognized her as one of seven Top Lawyers Under 40 in the country. Washington Law & Politics recognized her as a Rising Star in Employment Law from 2010-2014. In recognition of her exceptional leadership and devoted service to civil rights law, the Washington State Bar Association’s Civil Rights Section awarded her its Distinguished Service Award in 2010. She was also the 2011 recipient of Seattle University’s School of Law Alumni Service Award, and in 2012, she was honored by the Thomas C. Wales Foundation at their Night Among Heroes for her extraordinary work in the courtroom and community.

“This year’s graduates join thousands of YVC alumni that serve our community as health care workers, educators, lawyers, entrepreneurs and more. Together we improve our lives and build a path for others to do the same,” she continued.

The Distinguished Alumnus Award will be presented during YVC’s Commencement ceremony on June 14.

Press Release Contacts:
Dustin Wunderlich / 509.574.6870 /
Stefanie Menard / 509.574.4646 /