Leslie Alvarez

  • Hosted by Disability Rights Texas
  • Sponsored by Texas Access to Justice Foundation
  • Service location McAllen, Texas
  • Law school St. Mary’s University School of Law
  • Issue area Education/Special Education
  • Fellowship class year 2020
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

During her Fellowship, Leslie advocated on behalf of children with disabilities in South Texas to ensure access to Early Childhood Intervention and Special Education services.

A child’s education is the backbone of their intellectual and social development, and it may determine the quality of life they will get to enjoy as an adult. The supports and services a child with a disability receives before and during their K-12 education is critical to their development. Despite the importance of these services and the rising numbers of children with disabilities, there has been a significant decline in Early Childhood Intervention funding per enrolled child. Additionally, special education services in Texas have had a history of being underfunded and under-supported. Children with disabilities in South Texas are more vulnerable to the negative systemic effect of the underfunding of services because of the language and cultural barriers that exist in a predominantly Hispanic community.

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-year Fellowship, Leslie:

  • Helped over 40 families of very young children with disabilities have access to appropriate special education supports and services
  • Filed and successfully settled due process and state level complaints in special education matters in which children with a disability were being denied access to services, resulting in clients attaining compensatory services such as counseling, tutoring, behavioral training for staff, therapy services and durable medical equipment
  • Developed and published a page of Early Childhood Intervention information and resources in English and Spanish on the Disability Rights Texas website
  • Collaborated with community and statewide organizations to conduct presentations on Early Childhood Intervention and Special Education to over 2,000 attendees, including parents of children with disabilities, school staff who work with students with disabilities, ECI program staff, other professionals who work with young children with disabilities and low-income, immigrant communities
  • Conducted outreach to dozens of community organizations, agencies, parent groups and medical providers in South Texas

Next Steps

The significant resources that Leslie developed during the Fellowship will remain accessible on the Disability Rights Texas website, and attorneys on the organization’s education team will continue to represent the clients served by her project.


Texas Access to Justice Commission honors St. Mary’s Law for pro bono service

My brother has taught me how to embrace diversity and differences through compassion and service, and my family’s experience with my brother’s disability has taught me the power of being relentless in the pursuit of justice.

Leslie Alvarez /
2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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