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Gates Public Service Law Scholars

Gates PSL Scholars have the opportunity to attend the UW School of Law and then pursue public interest law without the crushing burden of educational debt. The scholarship program covers all cost of tuition, books, room and board and incidental expenses during law school. In exchange, students dedicate five years to public service. Each of the Gates PSL Scholarship recipients say the chance to earn a law degree from one of the finest schools in the nation free of any debt is a dream come true. The financial assistance provided by the scholarship allows them to move directly into jobs doing what they love – providing public service to those in need.

Stephan CogerStephan Coger - 2011 Scholar

Stephen Coger learned as a child in Danville, Arkansas that appreciation for diversity leads naturally to a commitment to public service. As a young adult, he attended the University of Arkansas, located in a region of anti-immigrant sentiment and policies where he founded OMNI for Peace, Justice and Ecology, a grass-roots organization that empowers youth through sharing cultures and fellowship.

Also a music lover, Coger coordinated musical events such as Solar Powered Music in the Mall, Solar Powered Music for Earth Day and the Annual Peace on Earth Music Festival. He recently co-produced and published Peace from the Hills, a CD of Arkansas musicians and poets, benefitting pro-peace Afghanistan veterans from Arkansas.

In 2007, Coger began work for Legal Aid of Arkansas. Working on community education and outreach programs to advocate for the immigrant community, he founded Coalition. In 2009, Coger was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and served in a teacher training college in Argentina. Walmart recognized Coger’s work and awarded him the 2010 Heroes de Corazon (Heart Heroes) Medal for Hispanic Advocacy.

Once at law school, Coger believes that his biggest challenge will be finding balance since he wants to participate in everything the UW School of Law has to offer. He’s specifically looking forward to participating in the Innocence Project Northwest.

Coger plans to “teach abroad, practice in Arkansas and ultimately run for office” when he completes his law degree.

On the personal side he hopes to “Find an amazing vegan restaurant with slam poetry and live music.”

Shelley HalsteadShelley Halstead - 2011 Scholar

Shelley Halstead defines public service as “the ability to reach out and help the marginalized and under-represented, those who have lost their voice, and give them a chance in a system that has seemingly failed them.” Halstead says that she chose the field of law because “it’s the one area that can touch people individually and globally.”

Halstead has an unerring desire to be useful. She has traveled and lived around the world while working in less advantaged communities in Europe and in India. Not connected with an organization, Halstead initiated the work on her own. Upon returning to the U.S., Halstead became a union carpenter. Working with other carpenters, Halstead “helped obtain domestic partner health benefits for unmarried and same sex couples in the Carpenters Trust of Western Washington.”

In 2004, Halstead joined the March for Women’s Reproductive Freedom in Washington, D.C. and marks that event as the turning point in her public service interest.

Halstead did not grow up wanting to be a lawyer but she did grow up with what her father called “a keen sense of justice.” “I have been a vocal proponent of women’s rights and have not stood down during racist, sexist or homophobic encounters, whether directed toward me or against someone else,” wrote Halstead.

She continues, “I envision working with low wage-earning women and women of color to help them understand their rights in the workplace and at home."

Halstead’s biggest challenge at the law school will be her career transition, moving from her work in labor and construction to public service law. She plans to meet other students and join student organizations especially those focused around reproductive rights, justice, labor and women's issues.

As a Seattle resident, Halstead understands why Seattle is a great place to practice law and to a build a sense of community. “We have incredible, diverse neighborhoods here – ones worth exploring over and over again.”

Shon HopwoodShon Hopwood - 2011 Scholar

Shon Hopwood, as described by Adam Liptak in his New York Times column about the legal world “was not a particularly sophisticated bank robber.”

He committed five robberies in his home state of Nebraska in 1997 and 1998 and landed in jail for over ten years. As Liptak wrote, in federal prison he discovered that “he was better at understanding the law than breaking it.“ While incarcerated, Hopwood says he “witnessed many unjust sentences handed out to prisoners due to the incompetency of their attorneys and notorious mandatory minimum sentencing laws.”

“I spent eight years preparing legal briefs filed pro se by federal prisoners often times because they could not write a complete sentence on their own,” he says.

Still a young man in his early 30’s, Hopwood has prepared over 25 briefs filed in the U.S. Supreme Court, including two petitions for certiorari granted by the Court, prepared federal direct appeal briefs, post-conviction motions and petitions that secured sentence reductions for federal prisoners.

His memoir, Law Man: My Story of Robbing Banks, Winning Supreme Court Cases, and Finding Redemption (Random House, 2012), which recounts his unique career path from the U.S. Military to jail to law school, will be published next year.

“I feel blessed to have had so many second chances and was helped by so many people along the way,” Shon said, “that I need to give back. Helping prisoners and those suffering from religious discrimination has become a passion of mine.”

Hopwood’s goal is to teach in law school and to run a prisoner's rights clinic so that he can take cases based on impact.

When he arrives in Seattle, he and his wife plan to find the nearest Starbucks. When he arrives at the law school, he’ll find the most comfortable chair in the Law Library since he anticipates spending a lot of time there.

Ashley PaintnerAshley Paintner - 2011 Scholar

Ashley Paintner’s experiences range from providing medical care in the rural villages of Iraq to improving literacy among disadvantaged children through AmeriCorps. Paintner joined the military at age 17 and was sent to Iraq at age 18. “I grew up fast,” Paintner noted. She served eight years in the Army National Guard which opened her eyes to poor health care, especially mental health services, for our veterans. Paintner was drawn to public service while in Iraq.

“There was not a lot of productivity and I saw that volunteering did the most to help the people directly,” Paintner commented. During her deployment, Paintner organized ten missions providing medical care to rural villages, delivered over 500 backpacks with school supplies to Iraqi children and worked with emotionally disturbed soldiers.

Returning home Paintner went to the University of North Dakota where she earned a B.A. in psychology and completed graduate work in clinical psychology at Auburn University, AL and at Washington State University in Pullman, WA. Her academics and life experiences led her to her current position at the North Dakota Department of Health as a Prenatal Health Screening Coordinator at the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Center.

In the years ahead, Paintner plans to advocate for changes in the mental health system especially for children. As a child of a rural community, she encourages the youth of other remote areas to never limit themselves and to focus on their education. And above all “persevere” as she did.

Coming from the Midwest most recently, Paintner is looking forward to finding the best seafood restaurant in Seattle.

Andrea WoodsAndrea Woods - 2011 Scholar

For Andrea Woods, public service is not a 9-to-5 job – it’s 24-7. She not only works with the poor, she lives with them and admits that she is the “happiest she’s ever been working and serving people.” She likes to think of herself as a woman for positive change in the world. Her list of accomplishments suggests that she is on her way.

Woods currently works as a caregiver to the disenfranchised, dying poor, and she lives simply as a symbol of solidarity with those she serves. Originally from the Northwest, Woods is a graduate of Gonzaga University with a B.A. in English and Psychology, Woods graduated with Honors. She created the first-ever “Death Penalty Awareness Week” by partnering with Amnesty International USA, and is the winner of the Gonzaga Concerto and Aria competition for flute.

Spending her years since college graduation as an anti-death penalty activist and organizer for the wrongfully convicted and exonerated former prisoners, Woods realizes that her passion for social justice was no longer just a theory. “The ways I have witnessed poverty, heartbreak, and death … have forever informed my existence on earth,” Andrea wrote.

Following a career in law seems the logical next-step in Woods public service career. “I feel energized by the possibilities for good within the legal profession, “commented Woods, “especially around the people at the UW law school.”

In the fall, when Woods comes to the University of Washington School of Law, her first goal will be to find “an outlet for volunteer work and a hospice network.” Her secondary goal? To sample some of Seattle’s famed coffeehouses.

Last updated 5/7/2014