2015/2016 Gregoire Fellows Share Their Stories and Inspiration
REINA ALMON is originally from Yakima, WA and is a magna cum laude graduate from Eastern Washington University, where she majored in government. Her extensive college volunteer work includes working for the Lands Council, fundraising over $50,000 for the Children's Miracle Network and advocating for victims of sexual assault. She was also a board member for the Eastern Washington Sustainability Project where she helped pilot an environmental education program for low-income school districts. In 2013, Reina won the title of Miss Washington and spent a year traveling the state and presenting to over 20,000 students in rural communities about substance abuse and the importance of higher education. She has been working for Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen during the most recent legislative session, and hopes to one day run for office.
"AS A FIRST-GENERATION COLLEGE STUDENT, THE MENTORING OPPORTUNITY OFFERED THROUGH THE GREGOIRE FELLOWSHIP IS VERY APPEALING TO ME."
LEONEL OMAR COJULUN, a first-generation college graduate from Victorville, California, received his Bachelor of Arts degree in anthropology from UCLA in 2013. Before coming to the University of Washington School of Law, he worked with the County of San Bernardino (CA) District Attorney's Office as part of their clerical support team. He hopes to continue his legal career as a transactional attorney after law school.
"THE GREGOIRE FELLOWS PROGRAM IS OF PARTICULAR INTEREST TO ME BECAUSE OF ITS AWARENESS FOR THE UNIQUE PERSPECTIVES THAT CAN RESULT FROM STUDENTS WITH VERY DIFFERENT SOCIOECONOMIC EXPERIENCES. ALTHOUGH GROWING UP WITH A SINGLE MOTHER WHO STRUGGLED TO RAISE HER CHILDREN INITIALLY INFLUENCED MY LACK OF CONFIDENCE THROUGHOUT ADOLESCENCE, MY MOTHER’S STRENGTH TAUGHT ME TO EMBRACE ADVERSITY AND ALLOW IT TO NOURISH MY DETERMINATION. I AM EXCITED TO BE A PART OF A PROGRAM THAT CELEBRATES DIVERSITY."
MARGARET ELENA GRITTEN graduated from the University of Washington with honors with a B.A. in philosophy. Born in West Oakland, California, she is the first in her family to graduate from college and to attend law school. Her experiences growing up in a poor and otherwise disadvantaged immigrant household, ultimately drove her to serve and advocate for underserved populations. Prior to law school, Gritten worked with Dream Project, mentoring other first-generation, largely minority, inner-city high school students and helping them reach their goal of higher education or acquire other meaningful employment. She interned at the Seattle City Attorney's Office in the criminal division and after graduation continued her involvement with marginalized communities with a nonprofit agency focused on overcoming human rights abuses and fostering the economic development of immigrant and refugee women. Margaret is interested in pursuing business, employment and immigration law.
"AS A GREGOIRE FELLOW, I INTEND TO DIVERSIFY WASHINGTON’S LEGAL PROFESSION BY UTILIZING MY TAGALOG SPEAKING SKILL TO ACCESS AND REPRESENT A SEVERELY UNDERREPRESENTED FILIPINO MINORITY SUBSET WITHIN WASHINGTON. I PLAN TO PROVIDE A VEHICLE FOR THE EXPRESSION OF OPINIONS OF MINORITY MEMBERS, ENSURE A ROBUST PRO BONO PROGRAM WHEREVER I ULTIMATELY WORK AND GIVE BACK TO MY COMMUNITY BY MENTORING, EMPOWERING AND REPRESENTING OTHER UNDERPRIVILEGED INDIVIDUALS IN WASHINGTON. I AM DEEPLY GRATEFUL FOR THIS WONDERFUL OPPORTUNITY AND INTEND TO BRING A STRONG, TOLERANT, NEEDED POINT OF VIEW REGARDING DIVERSITY INTO A POWERFUL FIELD WHERE IT IS LACKING."
MAX FAUCETTE was born in Bellevue, Washington and attended the University of Washington, where he graduated with a degree in political communication. He spent seven years working with youth in the Bellevue School District and looks forward to being able to combine his legal education with his prior experience to benefit the public good. He is interested in international affairs.
"I WAS INTERESTED IN THE GREGOIRE FELLOWS PROGRAM BECAUSE I BELIEVE THAT THE ONLY WAY TO HELP AND CONTRIBUTE TO A DIVERSE COMMUNITY LIKE OURS IS TO HAVE PEOPLE WITH EQUALLY DIVERSE VIEWS ON HOW TO CONTRIBUTE WORKING TOGETHER."
KONRAD JULIUS KALPEN received a bachelor's degree in public policy studies from Duke University and a master's degree in public relations from the University of Georgia. Growing up as an "army brat," he’s lived in nearly a dozen states and countries, but plans to make Seattle his first "hometown." When his father retired from the Army around the time he finished high school, Konrad joined him in starting a family business, which has grown from a single bicycle shop to a chain of stores and services that emphasize serving military veterans in the community and helping them start businesses of their own.
"I AM EXCITED TO BE A PART OF THE GREGOIRE FELLOWS PROGRAM FOR THE OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN FROM LEGAL COUNSELS AT THE COUNTRY’S BEST COMPANIES, SO THAT I CAN USE THOSE SKILLS TO HELP OTHER FAMILY-OWNED START-UPS NAVIGATE THEIR WAY THROUGH THE LEGAL OBSTACLES INVOLVED IN BUILDING AND MAINTAINING AN ENTERPRISE THAT PROVIDES FOR THEMSELVES AND THEIR COMMUNITY."
MEGHAN McNABB is a graduate of the University of Washington where she majored in psychology and minored in diversity studies. She then went on to join Teach for America, and spent two years teaching middle school mathematics while earning her master’s degree in education and social change from the University of Miami. Meghan's experience in the classroom, seeing firsthand the devastating effects of poverty on the learning experience, played a vital role in her desire to enter the legal profession.
"I WAS IMMEDIATELY DRAWN TO THE GREGOIRE FELLOWS PROGRAM BECAUSE OF THE UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY TO EXPERIENCE BOTH ‘BIG LAW’ AND ‘IN HOUSE’ LIFE WITH SOME OF THE NATION’S TOP COMPANIES AND FIRMS."
MADHU PANJINI is originally from Olympia, Washington and graduated with a B.A. in political science honors from the University of Washington in 2013. The hallmark of her undergraduate career was being the student development officer and a mentor in the UW Dream Project, a high school outreach program. Upon graduating, she sought to continue working in education equity in a more "on-the-ground" capacity. For the last few years, she has taught middle school math in Phoenix, Arizona. Teaching deepened her commitment to serving underrepresented communities, especially after she experienced first-hand how lack of access to legal services created numerous challenges for some her students.
"THE PROFESSIONAL SUPPORT AND FINANCIAL PEACE OF MIND PROVIDED BY THE GREGOIRE FELLOWS PROGRAM IS A DREAM COME TRUE FOR ME. I AM GRATEFUL FOR THE OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN FROM HANDS-ON EXPERIENCES AND WELL-ESTABLISHED PRACTITIONERS IN SEATTLE— ALL THE WHILE HELPING THE LEGAL PROFESSION BETTER REPRESENT THE POPULATION THEY SERVE."
MARICARMEN PEREZ-VARGAS is from Phoenix, Arizona, where she attended Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in justice studies, as well as a Socio-Legal Certificate and minoring in French. Her honors thesis analyzed the constitutionality of the application of the death penalty in Arizona. She is passionate about technology and her experience working on the legal team of a Seattle-based software company, TUNE, Inc., demonstrated to her the impact that strong legal counsel can have on a fast-moving company. Maricarmen is fluent in Spanish, her native language, and firmly believes in the power of effective communication to enable diverse perspectives. She hopes to pursue a career in litigation.
"SEATTLE IS AN INCREDIBLE CITY WHERE THE LEGAL COMMUNITY HAS THE UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY TO EMPOWER THE CREATIVITY, TECHNOLOGY AND GROWTH THAT DEFINE THE COMMUNITY. AS A GREGOIRE FELLOW, I AM SO HONORED TO HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO WORK WITH AND LEARN FROM SOME OF THE MOST INNOVATIVE CORPORATIONS AND LAW FIRMS IN THE WORLD."
ADAM ROBERTS, a native of Tacoma, Washington studied criminal justice at Washington State University. As an intern for the Washington State Attorney General’s Office Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General, Adam witnessed the grave importance of the law in managing the fraudulent waste and abuse of safety net funding designated for marginalized citizens in need. He advocates for diversity in the field of law, in order to better represent those often marginalized groups.
"GROUPS INCLUDING RACIAL MINORITIES, WOMEN, THE POOR AND THE LGBT COMMUNITY ARE OFTEN SUBJUGATED BY CORPORATE DISCRIMINATION AND HIRING BIAS THAT OFTEN PREVENTS THEM FROM FINDING EQUAL SUCCESS WITHIN THIS DIFFICULT ECONOMY; THUS, IT IS IMPERATIVE, FOR THE LEGAL COMMUNITY TO DIVERSIFY AND EXPAND ITS EMPLOYMENT TO INCLUDE A MULTIFACETED COLLECTION OF ATTORNEYS AND PROFESSIONALS THAT HOLISTICALLY EMBODY THE DIVERSE AMERICAN COMMUNITY THAT WE ALL REPRESENT."
SUSANA RUIZ-GALLEGOS is a recent graduate from the University of Idaho with Bachelors of Science degrees
in sociology and psychology. She grew up in Boise, Idaho, and enjoys rock climbing and mountain biking. Susana is a first-generation college graduate and professional school attendee and chose to study the law to support the individuals in society who are at most risk of underrepresentation and exploitation.
"I BECAME INTERESTED IN THE GREGOIRE FELLOWS PROGRAM UPON LEARNING THAT THE PROGRAM PROMOTED MORE DIVERSITY IN THE LEGAL WORLD. THIS PROGRAM IS AN ASSET TO THE DIVERSE POPULATIONS OF WASHINGTON, INCLUDING MYSELF AS A HISPANIC WOMAN, IN ENCOURAGING UNDERREPRESENTED STUDENTS TO CHOOSE A LEGAL PROFESSION. THE PROGRAM PROVIDES FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE, MENTORSHIP AND AN INVALUABLE OPPORTUNITY TO GAIN LEGAL EXPERIENCE WORKING FOR A SEATTLE-BASED CORPORATION DURING THE SUMMER; OPPORTUNITIES THAT WERE MERE DREAMS UNTIL RECENTLY FOR ME."
MARKUS SURRATT was born in Renton, Washington and grew up in the Puget Sound region in White Center
and Des Moines, Washington. He attended the University of Washington Seattle campus and received a Bachelor's of Arts degree in political science and a Bachelor’s of Science in economics in 2014. After graduating college, he worked at a small airline revenue management software firm in Seattle for one year. He hopes to one day work in public policy in the state of Washington.
"MAINTAINING DIVERSE PERSPECTIVES AND EXPERIENCES IN ANY ENVIRONMENT IS CRITICAL TO FOSTERING A COMMUNITY WHICH BETTER UNDERSTANDS THE WORLD AROUND THEM, HOW PEOPLE VIEW OTHERS, WHAT THEY VALUE, AS WELL AS THE TYPES OF RELATIONSHIPS THESE PEOPLE FORM. IT IS BECAUSE OF THIS PROMOTION OF DIVERSITY THAT I AM PARTICIPATING IN THE GREGOIRE FELLOWS PROGRAM."
STEPHAN YHANN was born in Miami, Florida and raised in Washington state. Steeped in politics, he decided to pursue a career as a lawyer to help advance social and economic justice in Washington and beyond. Stephan worked on progressive campaigns and advocated for college affordability as an undergraduate at the University of Washington. After earning degrees in political science and journalism, he worked for UFCW 21's Communications Department. Though still in flux, his interests include labor and criminal law.
"THE OPPORTUNITY TO PURSUE A CAREER THAT WILL ENABLE ME TO GIVE BACK TO SO MANY COMMUNITIES IN SO MANY DIFFERENT WAYS IS TRULY HUMBLING. I LOOK FORWARD TO LEARNING FROM THE EXPERIENCES AND APPLYING THE INSIGHTS THE GREGOIRE FELLOWSHIP AND ITS MENTORS PROVIDE."