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Meet Antoinette Balta of Veterans Legal Institute in Santa Ana

Today we’d like to introduce you to Antoinette Balta.

Antoinette, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
As a first generation American, education was always a goal. I wanted to go to college and law school and pay forward all my blessings in life. Fortunately, I was able to be the first woman in my entire extended family to receive a degree and the first person in my family to get an advanced degree. After law school, I dreamed of working in public interest but simply could not afford it. I practiced business and real estate litigation to pay the bills and as soon as I was financially stable became an AmeriCorps at a local legal aid where I worked on housing and homelessness issues. During my tenure at that position, I noticed an influx of homeless veterans that I did not understand. I committed myself to research and understanding the issues troubling veterans today and learned that the reasons that veterans are homeless and civilians are homeless are vastly different. A few years later, I gathered the courage to fill a massive void in Southern California – to create a military specific legal aid called Veterans Legal Institute with a co-founder. I was able to leverage the legal and military community for resources, volunteers and collaborative efforts that has subsequently led to over 4,000 veterans receiving service in the last 4 years.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
As Terry Pearce said, “Authentic leaders inspire others to willingly take action to affect change.” I can’t say it was a smooth road, but it has been a blessed one filled with a lot of hard work, effort, tears, sweat and sleepless nights and I have 4,000 reasons that explain why none of that was in vain.

Please tell us about Veterans Legal Institute.
Veterans Legal Institute® (VLI) provides pro bono legal assistance to homeless and low income current and former service members so as to eradicate barriers to housing, education, employment and healthcare and foster self-sufficiency. VLI is designated by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. It is unique because we are wholly military specific and no veteran ever receives a bill.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Attending Sunday mass every week with my family.

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