Camelia Valdes made history on May 16, 2009 when she accepted the position as Passaic county prosecutor by being the first Latina county prosecutor in New Jersey and the first lead prosecutor of Dominican ancestry in the United States.
Born in the Bronx to Dominican immigrants and raised in Newark surrounded by crime, Seton Hall University class of 1993 alumna, Valdes was inspired by her experiences to become an advocate for justice and community service.
“I was dedicated to get an education, to make my parents proud, and to get a career so I could pay tribute to the sacrifices of my parents,” Valdes said. “My parents pay attention to me being on television more than the awards, but it’s fun to see their excitement and pride.”
The Hispanic National Bar Association named Valdes their 2016 Latina Lawyer of the year.
“She exemplifies the importance of doing a tough job, doing it well, and making time for other public services,” said Steve Flores, the HBNA award committee chair.
He added that women like Valdes have opened “the door for other Latinas to follow.”
“It’s an extraordinary privilege to receive this national honor,” Valdes said. “It’s given me the opportunity to talk to students and women in the law and show them it’s possible with hard work.”
Valdes holds numerous awards for her successful career and her many service contributions to the community.
“She is a great representative of what we want our students to be when they graduate,” said Carol Ann Koert, the Seton Hall director of alumni events.
A mother of two autistic girls, Valdes said her daughters are the ones who inspire her to keep moving and never give up. She has dedicated her life to advocating for those who cannot advocate for themselves, either through her career as a prosecutor or through her community service.
Valdes attributes her passion for public service to Seton Hall, whose importance of community and faith has helped her set a tone of respect, equality, and justice in her life.
“She represents that service to society, service to the community, and, there is no question, service to Newark and New Jersey,” said interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Crysanthy Grieco, who awarded Valdes the 2015 Many Are One Alumni Service Award.
Knowing she has the support of her peers, family, and school, Valdes continues her strive to make all of them proud.
Payton Seda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org