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
Alfredo González Benítez – 2015 Scholar
Alfredo González Benítez says that growing up as an undocumented immigrant inspired him to pursue a career in public service. The deportation of his mother and his family’s subsequent struggles proved that affordable legal help would have made a world of difference for his family, but it was always economically out of reach.
"We didn’t know what rights we had in the U.S.," says González. "My community is a very vulnerable one, constantly at risk of deportation, exploitation in the workplace and violent crimes. I saw the desperate need for affordable, qualified legal assistance."
In 2012, González was granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which allows him to live and work in the U.S. Inspired by his family’s struggles, he has dedicated himself to working on behalf of his community, first as a volunteer and then as an employee of American Gateways in Austin, Texas, where he assisted staff members who represented immigrant survivors of abuse and violent crimes.
González worked his way up to the position of Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) Accredited Representative, and represented low-income immigrants before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Executive Office For Immigration Review. "I use my experience of growing up undocumented to better assist and empower my clients, who have suffered tremendous trauma," says González.
"I look forward to joining a community dedicated to improving the lives of even the most marginalized people in our community," says González. "With my law degree from the University of Washington, I will be able to provide accessible legal services to DREAMers like me and to others who are too-often underserved by the legal profession. I also hope to use my UW law degree to impact U.S. policy on immigration and immigrants’ rights to keep families together."
Natasha A. Magness – 2015 Scholar
When she hears someone say the fight for LGBTQ rights is nearing an end, Natasha Magness responds with a warning against complacency. She believes there is still much work to be done to expand legal protections for LGBTQ individuals in the workplace, educational environments and housing.
Magness has experienced firsthand the effects of institutional policies against LGBTQ students. As an undergraduate at a small, private evangelical university, she struggled with life in the closet and witnessed depression, suicide attempts and alcoholism among other LGBTQ students. "In 2012, I co-founded Biola Queer Underground, the first support group for LGBTQ students at the university," she says. She established the first delegation between the university administration and LGBTQ students and alumni, and mounted a national-scope communications project to garner support.
A year later, Magness received a Donald A. Strauss Foundation Scholarship and used the award to support LGBTQ-affirming educational events for religious communities in Orange County, CA. "I was surprised at how rampant acts of discrimination are in religious communities and how often these acts of discrimination are protected by our laws," Magness says.
Magness chose public service because she believes that the best way to challenge large-scale systemic injustice is through problem solving on a smaller scale. As a Gates Scholar studying in a community of people dedicated to solving complex issues, Magness knows she will get the preparation she needs in order to advocate for the legal rights of LGBTQ youth.
"I believe the issue of expulsion and employment termination of LGBT people at religious institutions lies at the intersection of religious freedom and human rights," says Magness. "My desire is to continue to advocate for youth by navigating the delicate and controversial issues that exist at this legal intersection."
Nico Quintana – 2015 Scholar
For eight years, Nico Quintana has fought for economic and social justice for transgender communities, working with the D.C. Trans Coalition, Trans Legal Advocates of Washington (TransLAW) and, most recently, as Policy Director for Basic Rights Oregon.
Quintana’s commitment to public service is deeply personal. "My experiences with poverty, homelessness and transphobia help inform my policy and advocacy work," he says. "There are not many people in advocacy or legal services who identify with the communities I come from. I hope to add an authentic voice for inclusion in the legal world."
Quintana has worked with transgender justice groups to implement health care policy, reduce barriers to identity documents and ensure that prisons, jails and shelters are safe, accountable and affirming of trans people. "I have seen how valuable a legal education can be, providing the tools to advocate for the rights of low-income transgender people, one of the most marginalized communities in the United States," he says. "I am interested in representing communities I come from as a public defender or civil rights litigator."
As a Gates Scholar, Quintana looks forward to working with a group of leaders dedicated to improving the lives of people who are most impacted by social inequity and injustice. "I deeply admire the work many public service lawyers I know have done to put economic, LGBT and racial justice issues front and center in the fight for social equality in the U.S.," says Quintana. "I am dedicated to becoming a public service attorney to better serve the needs of my community, and to build a legal community that is dedicated to service and justice."
Theodore Shaw – 2015 Scholar
Theodore Shaw has firsthand experience with what can happen to defendants who lack financial resources. "My education in law began under the worst circumstances possible: as a criminal defendant, wrongly accused, without sufficient means or formal training," he says.
Confined for eight months with bail set at an amount his family could not pay, Shaw familiarized himself with the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure and filed several motions for bond reduction. He was eventually freed, thanks to a nationwide fundraising effort and zealous representation by his lawyer and mentor.
As an advocate for the Southern Poverty Law Center and a fellow for the National Juvenile Justice Network, Shaw attended numerous district court proceedings and witnessed the effect of racial discrimination in many cases. These experiences awakened his interest in becoming a trial lawyer who would defend all clients, regardless of their race or financial resources.
"The wretched reality," says Shaw, "is that for racial minorities and poor people, there is no equal justice. Innocent people are sent to prison because they don’t have the resources to challenge the prosecutor’s case."
Shaw’s deep concern for persons of all races whose constitutional rights may be violated inspired him to apply for the Gates Public Service Law Program. As a Gates Scholar, Shaw is eager to engage in dialogue with other public service-minded students and the public interest community. He is looking forward to seminars, speaker series and summer internships with organizations that will prepare him to be an indigent defense attorney.
"For me, public service is a moral and ethical obligation," says Shaw. "I am committed to fighting systemic poverty, challenging racial discrimination in our criminal justice system and using my knowledge to be a powerful and compassionate voice for every person accused of a crime."
Danny Elon Waxwing – 2015 Scholar
Danny Elon Waxwing has demonstrated his devotion to public service through involvement with social justice community projects and organizations, in particular the Prison Doula Project and the Emma Goldman Youth and Homeless Outreach Project. Although Waxwing sometimes finds his work heartbreaking and challenging, the work has also provided the motivation for his pursuit of a career in family law.
"As a queer and gender non-conforming person, I come from communities that experience criminalized identities, violence, and restricted access to resources and opportunities," says Waxwing. Waxwing knows from personal experience the ways in which the legal system fails to address the needs of non-nuclear, queer or transgender families.
In his work as an advocate for people who are incarcerated and affected by the child welfare system, Waxwing has seen how people’s lives are affected — for better or worse — by the ways in which they are engaged and informed during the legal process. He believes that the client’s experiences, needs and voice must be central to legal strategy.
"My passion is to connect the personal to the structural, providing resources and support so that clients can become active participants in the legal process and understand their cases within the broader social context," says Waxwing. "I am interested in exploring how lawyers can complement their community’s work in addressing the systemic intersections between race, poverty, incarceration, reproductive injustice, and the policing of marginalized families."
As a Gates Scholar, Waxwing intends to focus on the field of family law. He looks forward to participating in the Incarcerated Parents Advocacy Clinic and the Incarcerated Mothers Advocacy Project student group. "I’m profoundly grateful to join the program," Waxwing says. "It is heartening to see the University of Washington School of Law valuing the kind of work that I aspire to do."