Scholars for Justice

Two more outstanding students have received Scholars for Justice awards from Seattle University School of Law. Kevin DeLiban of Bellingham and Celeste Miller of Portland, Ore., are the recipients of this year’s full-tuition award for students committed to working in the public interest.

Celeste Miller and Kevin DeLiban

Miller earned a master’s in social work from Portland State University in June. She grew up in poverty and has dedicated her life to helping underserved populations, especially children and immigrants.

DeLiban is a 2003 graduate of University of California Berkeley who has been an advocate for youth and the disenfranchised.

“Seattle University School of Law is a really good match for me because my area of focus is on social justice,” Miller said. “I always knew that I wanted to work with people and especially people in need. It was during my first year of graduate school that I realized that I could best help people by becoming a lawyer.”

When she was young, Miller’s dad worked on and off as a forestry contractor while her mom stayed home with her and her four younger siblings. They lived in a “ghost town” in rural Oregon, and she attended a K-12 school with 80 students. Still, her parents instilled the importance of education, and she really didn’t know how poor her family was until she got to Linfield College. She worked at the Portland Boys and Girls Club, where she saw how much rougher the city can be on families. There she saw immigrants and single parents working to raise children on minimum-wage jobs or with no work at all.

“I knew I could be a good social worker because I didn’t think someone was a bad parent just because they were struggling to make ends meet. I know how hard it is, and no one deserves to live in poverty.”

DeLiban also has a passion for helping the less fortunate. Among other things, he founded a class at Berkeley on the history of hip hop, which turned into a program at an alternative middle school in Oakland, California.

“It was a lot of fun, and we did some good,” he said. And he gained insight into just what desperate times can do to families and children. “You see the role that need and survival play in some people’s lives,” he said.

After college he worked for the San Francisco Ethics Commission as a campaign finance assistant, where he turned into a whistleblower and was recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists for his efforts to bring the allegations he uncovered to light. He works at LAW Advocates in Bellingham, where he helps disabled and mentally ill clients get treatment and benefits. That started as a volunteer position in 2004, but the work appealed to him, so he stayed on full-time.

DeLiban looks forward to combining a legal education with his experience and passion for the underserved. And he’s grateful for the award that will allow him to do the work he loves without incurring law school debt.

“I really doubt that I would go to law school without this award,” DeLiban said.

The scholarship allows two of the most promising students who have proven their dedication to this important but traditionally lower-paying field of 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.

“Now that we’re in the second year of offering this prestigious scholarship, the applicant pool is increasingly outstanding,” said Carol Cochran, assistant dean for admissions. “Kevin and Celeste have much to contribute to the legal profession and society, and we are honored to name them Scholars for Justice.”

Sullivan Hall