Gates Public Service Law Scholarship Awarded to First Recipients

Vanessa Torres Hernandez

Vanessa Torres Hernandez Vanessa received her undergraduate degree from Amherst College and her M.Ed. in Teaching and Curriculum from Harvard University. She currently teaches at Soundview School in Lynnwood, Washington.

A native of Guam, Vanessa said her family has always been involved in public service. Her grandfather was the first elected governor of Guam and was instrumental in pushing the U.S. to give the Guam people the right to self-govern and her father is a justice on the Guam Supreme Court. After graduating from Harvard, Vanessa taught at Roxbury Preparatory Charter School in Boston, a charter school serving low-income students of color. She was inspired to see how kids who faced steep academic and socioeconomic challenges excelled in an environment focused on student achievement. After hearing about the creation of the Gates PSL Scholarship, she took the LSAT and applied to the UW law school within two weeks.

“I knew I eventually wanted to go to law school,” said Vanessa. “My fear was that some law schools say they are interested in public service law but when you look closer, it’s just not a priority.” The Gates PSL Scholarship, a focus on public service in externships, the variety of service-oriented clinics, the Street Law program, and a 60-hour service requirement for graduation all pointed to the UW law school’s true commitment to public interest.

Vanessa hopes the experience and education she gains at the law school will lead to work advocating for K-12 education reform either in the non-profit or public policy sector. “I love teaching, but what drives me to work outside of the classroom is when I see an excellent classroom. I think, ‘There should be more great classrooms…and there can be!’”

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