Scholars for Justice bring broad experience to the law school
Patricia Sully hitchhiked from a Botswana village to get to a computer with Internet access in a community two hours away in order to fill out her law school application.
Reyna Ramolete Hayashi got word of her Scholars for Justice Award during a visit to an Internet café while working in Nicaragua.
Both women's public service, including work in developing countries, earned them the distinction of being this year's Scholars for Justice, guaranteeing them full-tuition scholarships.
"Reyna and Patricia both embrace the law school's mission of working for a more just and humane world," said Carol Cochran, assistant dean for admission. "We're honored to have them among our students and know they will make important contributions to the law school and society through their work."
The scholarship allows two of the most promising students who have proven their dedication to the important but traditionally lower-paying field of public interest law to earn their degrees without incurring the debt that is often an obstacle in choosing such a career. Scholars will make a moral commitment to devote much of their careers to public interest law or to donate to the law school's scholarship fund an amount at least equal to the scholarship should their career path change.
"Reyna and Patricia both embrace the law school’s mission of working for a more just and humane world. We’re honored to have them among our students and know they will make important contributions to the law school and society through their work."
This is the first year the law school has had Scholars for Justice in every class. The first recipients, Amy Pritchard and Persis Yu, will graduate in May. Celeste Miller and Kevin DeLiban are in their second year.
Ramolete Hayashi grew up in Hawaii and graduated from The University of British Columbia with degrees in political science and international relations. She was a residential social worker for the Salvation Army in Vancouver's downtown eastside, working to transition people out of homelessness. In working to help people overcome obstacles and direct them to services, she learned how deeply those on the streets care for each other.
"Working with that group of people was amazing," Ramolete Hayashi said. "I never felt community like that anywhere else in Vancouver. I feel like often we don't nurture community on a regular basis in our own lives."
She realized that many of the programs and services meant to serve the homeless were based on faulty assumptions.
"Social work is a powerful vehicle to affect change one person at a time" she said. "But many of the injustices my clients encountered could not be addressed through client counseling or marshalling resources. These inequities were the product of flawed social and economic policies and need to be addressed on a larger sale."
Ramolete Hayashi was also a research associate for the Centre for Rural Health Research at the University of British Columbia, focusing on providing maternity services for rural women.
She spent the summer volunteering with two programs in Central America. At Casas de la Esperanza, or Houses of Hope, she worked in impoverished areas of Nicaragua to provide micro credits - small loans to help the poor build homes - and with children and women. She also conducted fieldwork in Guatemala with Engineers Without Borders to help improve access to water in rural, indigenous communities.
She said she has been passionate about social justice issues all her life, especially hearing from her mother the challenges she faced as an 18-year-old immigrant from the Philippines. Her mother, Mayette Ramolete Ching, is a graduate of Seattle University.
Patricia Sully grew up in Pittsburgh and graduated from Calvin College in Michigan with a degree in Ancient Greek.
She was a community organizer for Americorps*Vista, working on low-income health care issues and with inner-city youth in Pittsburgh and spent 27 months with the Peace Corps in Botswana, working to keep HIV-positive mothers from transmitting the virus to their children.
In a country where one in three people is HIV-positive, she worked to educate women about the importance of seeking medication for themselves and their infants that can prevent transmission. The government provides clinics for such treatment. She helped women get baby formula so they didn't infect their infants through breastfeeding and taught them how to make beads they could sell to earn money.
One of her biggest projects in the village was working with the Rothschild Family Foundation and the village leadership to build a library with computers, Internet, and a playground. Construction was nearly complete when she left. The project fit in well with Botswana's multi-sectoral approach to HIV/AIDS prevention by creating a place where literacy, HIV/AIDS education and recreation could all be facilitated.
"This was something the community really wanted, and it was really amazing to get to be a part of making it happen," she said. "In most villages the only place for the youth to go is to the bar."
Sully, who also studied in Uganda while in college, and loved working with the Botswana villagers, as well as her job as community organizer But she felt the need to do more and decided on law school. She took the LSAT in Botswana.
"You confront so many issues," she said. "At some point, I wanted to have a greater impact on policy."
Both are grateful for their Scholars for Justice Awards and are taking advantage of all the opportunities the law school offers to work for justice.
"I feel so privileged to come here and to be able to focus on being an agent of change," Ramolete Hayashi said. "The work I've done has anchored and focused me. I'm ready to be here. I feel like it's a really good match."
Sully agreed, saying, "The law school offers a lot of activities to keep you focused on why you came here. The focus on justice reminds me of who I am."
"This scholarship is really a gift that makes me hopeful that we can continue to do the work we are so passionate about."