The UW School of Law is proud to announce the five recipients of the Gates PSL Scholarship for 2008-09: Wyatt Golding,
Miranda Strong, and
All three law school class years at the University of Washington will have a complement of Gates Scholars when these students arrive on campus next fall.
Gates PSL Scholars have the opportunity to attend the UW School of Law and then pursue public interest law without the 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 law practice.
Here’s more about the Class of 2011 Gates Scholars:
Wyatt Golding - 2008 Scholar
From catching trout in small rivers as a boy to aiding conservation biologists on the shores of China's Lake Dianchi, Wyatt Golding has developed and demonstrated a strong commitment to protecting the environment.
"When I came to China, for the first time I saw just how important the law is and what happens when you have limited rule of law," said Golding. "I also saw how bad policies that affect natural resources can tear apart a whole community."
After Golding graduated from Yale University, he was selected as a Yale-China Fellow to teach English to high school students in Xiuning, a rural town in southern Anhui province in China's south central interior. In addition to his teaching duties, he worked as a researcher for the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Hydrobiology. He wrote a paper for the Academy on the environmental policy history of Lake Dianchi. Once considered a "pearl on the plateau", the waters of the lake are now so polluted that they are unsafe to touch.
Golding hopes to use his skills and passion for integrating environment and society, as well as a law degree, to protect and restore waterways and their surrounding communities. He said his dream job would involve helping communities broker and share water resources.
Golding said he was “blown away” to be considered for the Gates Scholarship. “It’s a dream come true.”
Lillian Hewko - 2008 Scholar
Lillian Hewko said her inspiration to work in public service comes from personal childhood experience. The daughter of a Mexican mother and white father, she says she was “exposed to many racial disparities.” This insight, in addition to an internship for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law where she worked with voter disenfranchisement issues, fueled her fervor to protect and preserve civil rights, especially for the disadvantaged.
“It was that internship that opened up my eyes to racism in the U.S.,” she said. “And I know that the law can remedy some of these injustices.”
The University of California San Diego graduate noticed that in the neighborhood where the clients lived they did not have access clean water or sewage services.
“The fact that these people were living in third world conditions in the U.S. in 2003 was appalling,” said Hewko.
From her work with ex-felons in the U.S., Hewko took her experience to the other side of the equator as a Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay for two years.
There, she worked with prison inmates, many of whom were trying to re-enter society after 25 year prison sentences. She also trained teachers, worked on the promotion of HIV/AIDS prevention, and created a tutoring system for street kids.
About the scholarship, Hewko says, “It’s unbelievable that the UW has this option. There are other scholarships, but this one goes beyond just the scholarship. The Gates PSL Program provide mentors and put the scholars in touch with local public interest lawyers.”
Nicholas Marritz - 2008 Scholar
Nick Marritz has a pretty good idea what it takes to work in public service. After all, his dad has been a legal aid lawyer for over thirty years.
When he asked his father about going into public interest law, Marritz’s father said, "Do it only if you want to. The job has a lot of stress, but you’ll feel very good about yourself if you pursue it.”
While studying abroad in Germany after high school, Marritz found himself marching alongside students and teachers in a demonstration against proposed education spending cuts.
It was then he understood the power of organizing for social causes. He pursued his undergraduate education at the University of Pittsburgh and after graduation he went to work as a paralegal with a small Pittsburgh law firm representing union retirees.
Later, as a campaign assistant with the International Labor Rights Fund, Marritz focused his sights on issues in Latin America. He volunteered for a rural community union in Guatemala called Nueva Alianza helping establish an international volunteer program. He said it was “inspiring to be part of the legal process for social change,” and “you learn a lot about yourself when you put yourself in an alien environment.”
Marritz said the “Gates Program is really unique in terms of how the program is set up. One thing that really impresses me is the commitment to 80 years of producing good public interest lawyers…that’s amazing.”
Miranda Strong - 2008 Scholar
Miranda Strong witnessed first-hand how important it can be to stand up for those who are not always able to defend themselves. In second grade, her two little brothers, both of whom have Asperger syndrome (a form of autism), were being picked on by the schoolyard bully.
“I got into my first and only fist fight,” she said, laughing and added, “I felt bad, but I was also elated that I was actually able to do something.”
Now, Strong says she wants to use words and policy to fight for people with disabilities.
The self-described "die hard Alaskan" and University of Alaska Anchorage graduate, says people in her home state "look at things a little differently. People in Alaska are very flexible and innovative. Living in a rural state presents a lot of challenges, but we have the skills to overcome those obstacles."
Strong is currently a mental health associate working with youth. It was her strong interest in health and disability law that drew her to the UW.
"The UW law school has such a supportive network," she said, pointing to the faculty expertise in disability law.
Strong says she is privileged to be a Gates Scholar. "The other Scholars are passionate about making a difference. The scholarships enable us to pursue public service careers."
Rebecca Watson - 2008 Scholar
Rebecca Watson comes to the UW after having a ten-year career in public service.
“I’ve been working in the social justice movement since I left college,” she said. “It’s the only work I can imagine myself doing and I keep looking for better ways to contribute through my work.” Although her work has been satisfying, Watson said it became clear a law degree would enable her to be a more powerful advocate and that she found there are not enough attorneys doing social justice work.
“There are not that many attorneys that can afford to work for often-underfunded organizations and still manage to pay back their school loans,” she said.
Watson lived in Guatemala after graduating from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. This experience led her to a position as a Red Cross Liaison to Spanish-speaking communities in Portland, Oregon. She then returned to Latin America for three more years to work with Witness for Peace where she taught delegations of visitors from the U.S. about the impacts of U.S. foreign policy in those countries.
Two years ago, Watson joined the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama, as a paralegal and worked to advocate for immigrants in post-Katrina New Orleans. She found immigrant workers who came to help rebuild New Orleans were often victims of labor abuses and had few options for legal assistance.
“There is a tendency to think of human rights and relate this to political rights,” said Watson. “But when wages are stolen and this forces families to go without adequate food or shelter, this is a human rights issue. We all have the right to be paid for our work. I see labor issues in a human rights context.”