Scholars for Justice share passion for human rights
As soon as Meghan Casey finished reading "Asylum Denied," which tells the story of a Kenyan refugee's struggle for safety in the United States, she started researching law school and making plans to take the LSAT.
Later, as an Americorps volunteer with an immigration law clinic in Boston, she went to an event with one of the attorneys she worked with, Mariam Liberles, a 2007 graduate of Seattle University School of Law. There she met one of the book's co-authors, law professor Philip Schrag, and had the opportunity to tell him that his story was instrumental in her decision to apply to law school.
This summer, having been chosen one of Seattle University School of Law's two Scholars for Justice, she received a book in the mail that would be the subject of the orientation program for new students. It was "Asylum Denied."
"I guess I was just meant to go here," Casey said, with a broad smile.
Annie DeVoe, the law school's other 2009 Scholar for Justice, shares Casey's passion to protect the rights of immigrants and the vulnerable. Among her broad background in public service, she has served on the board of Vermont Refugee Assistance, an organization that supports people seeking asylum and helps immigrants with legal assistance. She is devoted to improving the health and bettering the lives of the vulnerable around the world.
"It's my sole reason for going to law school," she said.
The full-tuition Scholars for Justice Award 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.
Both scholars have a well-defined mission to work for justice. For a year after graduating from Boston College, Casey was an Americorps Volunteer with the International Institute of Boston, working with attorneys to assist immigrants, refugees, aslyees, and non-residents.
In college, she was an intern for the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity and wrote articles for a college journal. While studying abroad, she wasn't content to simply go to class and sightsee. Instead, she sought out service opportunities. Among them she was a volunteer with elementary and nursery classrooms at an orphanage for AIDS orphans and abandoned children in Tanzania; worked at a homeless shelter in Florence, Italy, and went to El Salvador for an immersion program.
"Those experiences opened my eyes to greater questions of injustice," said Casey, who started as a pre-med major before deciding a career in law would better help her achieve her goals.
DeVoe's mother had served in the Peace Corps in Nepal. When DeVoe was just 4, they returned.
"It is one of my earliest memories," DeVoe said. "It definitely shaped me and my perspective. I assumed everyone does the Peace Corps and everyone lives their lives this way."
As she got older, she realized that's not so, but she never wavered from her own commitment to public service. She served in the Peace Corps twice. She was evacuated from her first post in Morocco after the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, but returned to the Peace Corps a few years later in Guinea, West Africa. There she worked to educate high school students about HIV.
DeVoe also has been a health care associate for Planned Parenthood in Vermont, a volunteer for the Slum Doctor Program, an organization based in Bellingham, Wash., that supports a variety of health and education projects in Kenya.
As a cultural anthropology major at Western Washington University, she was drawn to study mass atrocities and was an intern for the Outreach Section of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the liaison between the court and the people of Sierra Leone.
Both are grateful for the scholarship that allows them to focus on what they find most important and are eager to be involved with all the law school offers.
The law school's first scholars for justice graduated in May 2009, and both are working in the public interest. Amy Pritchard is a staff attorney for Legal Aid of Arkansas, where she is the only Spanish-speaking lawyer. Persis Yu won a coveted two-year fellowship with Empire Justice in Rochester, N.Y., to work on consumer protection and credit reporting issues.