Former Governor Meets 2016 Gregoire Fellows

Last week, former Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire met with the new 2016-17 Gregoire Fellows. These nine fellows entered the UW School of Law this fall and were accepted into the selective program now in its second year.

Founded in 2015, the Gregoire Fellows program connects law students with leading Puget Sound area businesses and law firms and supports students throughout their education. Students receive paid summer internships with participating law firms and legal departments after the first year of study, and financial assistance for bar exam preparation at the end of their studies. The fellows also have opportunities to participate in a mentorship program with former Governor Gregoire.

Meet our 2016 Gregoire Fellows

Keezi Barraza is a first-generation college graduate from Durango, Colorado. He received his B.A. in psychology and philosophy from the University of Denver. Before moving to the Pacific Northwest, he volunteered as an investigator-intern at the Colorado State Public Defender’s Office. He also had the opportunity to work on a pro bono clemency case where he was able to help a young man who had been sentenced to life in prison without parole. Prior to his experience as a legal-intern, Barraza owned and operated a fitness business in West Hollywood, California.

“I am thrilled to be participating in the Gregoire Fellows Program. As a member of the transgender community, I have faced many social injustices. These experiences have shaped and influenced my path as a future defense attorney. What motivates me to wake up every morning is the opportunity to help individuals, like myself, experience a life that is worth living and remembering, a life of equality and justice.”

Seth Brickey, a first generation college graduate from Juneau, Alaska, graduated cum laude with a B.A. in political science from Western Washington University. Brickey’s public service work includes serving as a member and mentor to Youth Courts of Alaska, Alaska’s novel approach to reforming juvenile justice. He has also worked closely with members of the Alaska State Legislature, testifying before committee on issues of criminal justice reform, and has staffed several Alaskan lawmakers. Most recently, in 2015 Governor Jay Inslee appointed Seth to serve on the Board of Trustees of Western Washington University. He hopes to pursue a career in criminal prosecution and perhaps one day run for office.

“I am deeply honored to be a part of the Gregoire Fellows Program. The opportunity to have hands-on experience working beside successful legal practitioners in a variety of fields is invaluable to a future lawyer. I am thrilled to be working with Seattle’s leaders in legal practice and with companies invested in the community and innovating for the future. I hope to learn how I can best use my unique experiences and perspectives to benefit the legal community of Washington State and beyond."

Jabu Diagana is a graduate of the University of Texas A&M where she obtained her MBA. Prior to law school, she worked for the Boeing Company Engineering, Operations and Technology Organization in various locations. Her experience living in different countries, under various circumstances and witnessing social inequalities, has influenced her to pursue a legal education. Although still open to the career possibilities she will discover in law school, Diagana is currently interested in combining her legal education with her technical background to pursue a career in international law, cybercrimes and litigation. She is fluent in French and speaks several African dialects.

“It is important that the legal field is made of the very people it intends to represent. As a first generation immigrant and a black woman, I am very grateful for the Gregoire Fellowship and the opportunities and support it gives us to pursue a legal career, a prospect that was a mere dream for me up until recently.“

Vanessa James is from Seattle and graduated from the University of Washington with a B.A. in law, societies and justice. While in college, James spent a year interning as a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate at the Seattle City Attorney’s Office where she learned about the criminal justice system and the need for diverse legal representation. The first in her family to attend law school, James chose to study the law to support individuals who are at the highest risk of exploitation but the least represented in her community.

“The opportunity to have a rigorous education that will lead to a career of giving back to my community is truly humbling. I look forward to learning from the experiences gained from the Gregoire Fellowship and the insights of my peers and mentors.”

Mikaela Louie is from Seattle and graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2011 with a B.A. in political science and philosophy. After college, she taught English in China and later worked for CARE in India, an NGO centered on gender equality to end poverty. Most recently, Louie served as a program manager at the Cross Cultural Health Care Program, a Seattle-based nonprofit advancing health equity and language access. She had the privilege of working with health care and social service agencies across the U.S. to achieve systems change. The intersections of access, health, and justice compelled her to pursue a law degree. Louie is also a family caregiver and advocate for Alzheimer’s disease, serving on the Board of Directors of the Alzheimer’s Association–Washington State Chapter. She is hoping to practice health law with a focus on civil rights.

“I am honored to participate in the Gregoire Fellowship Program. As the granddaughter of immigrants and refugees, as a family caregiver and having learned from communities around the world, I intend to bring to the legal profession an equity lens and perspective on intersectionality. I am thrilled by the opportunities and mentorship offered by this program to promote diverse experiences in the legal community."

Chris Martinez graduated from the University of Washington Tacoma with a B.A. in politics, philosophy and economics, as well as with a minor in human rights. He is the first in his immediate family to attend any type of graduate school. Since graduation, Martinez has worked two sessions at the Washington State Legislature in the intern program, working closely with college students from around the state of Washington, and interned at the Washington State Attorney General’s Office working with their public policy and media communications departments. Throughout his time working, Chris learned that “a lot of students don’t know what resources are available to them when they are considering whether or not to pursue a graduate degree. The task can seem daunting but the skills to succeed do exist and are accessible to anyone. I think the real challenge is getting those resources into the hands of people who would benefit from them.” After law school Chris hopes to pursue a career as a transactional attorney.

“I saw the Gregoire Fellowship as a way to make lasting connections both within the law school and out in the legal world. Diversifying the legal field is something I feel strongly about and I’m excited about the opportunity to guide future Gregoire Fellows the way my mentors have been helping me. It’s truly an invaluable experience.”

Ava Sanchez graduated with honors from the University of California, Davis, receiving her B.A. in political science with a minor in Spanish. Born and raised in Hollister, a rural part of Northern California, she is the first in her family to attend law school. Prior to law school, Sanchez worked at the California State Assembly where she served as a communications director and legislative assistant. She worked on public policy advocating for underserved populations, specifically addressing higher education equity and health care access. She helped to garner support for funding of a public medical school which increased the availability of primary care physicians. She also fought for legislation to increase access to legal aid for students in need of educational relief. Sanchez continues to advocate for disadvantaged communities, address social justice issues, and hopes to eventually become a human rights lawyer.

“As a first-generation professional school student, I am honored to be recognized as a Gregoire Fellow. I am grateful for the mentorship opportunities, excited to be a part of a program that embraces diversity and eager to continue to work for underrepresented communities.”

Michelle Saperstein received a bachelor’s degree in history from Whitman College and a master’s degree in teaching from Boston University. After a year teaching high school, she joined President Obama’s reelection campaign in New Hampshire. Saperstein has since worked for the education policy think-tank Center on Reinventing Public Education, helping conduct and publish K-12 research funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. More recently, Saperstein worked for Amara, a Seattle non-profit where she helped raise nearly $500,000 for foster and adoption programming. Ms. Saperstein currently serves on the UW board for Street Youth Legal Advocates of Washington and volunteers with both the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and WSBA’s Moderate Means Program.

“The Gregoire Fellowship Program represents a genuine commitment to diversify the perspectives of the Washington legal community. This program is about more than getting diverse people into the room. It’s about enhancing the probability those diverse voices are able to power social change. I am honored to speak from the perspective of a Hispanic, Jewish woman who survived a traumatic childhood. These parts of my identity, combined with my professional experiences, will be invaluable practitioner’s assets. The incredible support of this program through the mentorship of former Governor Gregoire, local employment internships and friendships with my exceptional colleagues will empower my diverse voice in the Washington legal community.“

Patience Veloza first came to Seattle for her undergrad studies at UW. After receiving a B.A. in international relations, she acted on her interests in international work by teaching English in Japan and traveling the world as an Air Force intelligence officer. Forty countries later, she left the Air Force and chose the Pacific Northwest as home. She received an MBA from Pacific Lutheran University and worked for the Washington Employment Security Department’s policy and legislation shop and for a small Defense Department organization that makes websites and apps to support psychological health in the military community.

“I love that the Gregoire Fellowship supports diversity here in the NW. I’ve literally been all over the world, and am proud to call this beautiful area my home. Seattle’s position as a Pacific/Asia-facing metropolis gives it a unique position among American cities. I look forward to work that supports Seattle’s role in the Pacific economy and its continued expansion as a major international tech hub.”