posted Jun 12, 2017

Meet the Gates Scholars: Bailey Russell

The Gates PSL Scholarship was founded in 2005 by a gift from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in honor of William H. Gates '50. The program awards five scholarships on an annual basis to first year J.D. students. Gates scholars commit to work in public service for five years following graduation.

For Bailey Russell, inaction is not an option.

Growing up as one of the few African Americans in her community, she drew on her experience of feeling underrepresented in the classroom to form her passion for social change. “I quickly learned that if I wanted my voice to be heard I had to demand it,” says Russell.

“[Public service] means being fully aware of your place in the world. And in public service, a person's place is never on the sidelines.”

Throughout college, Russell has worked toward not only making her own voice heard, but on behalf of and mobilizing other students of color. She has been a part of numerous campus-wide initiatives at Gonzaga University, assisting with multicultural activities, programs and events. As a student in the Experiential Leadership Institute, Russell developed programming to educate students on micro aggressions and their impact on campus, and after the University of Missouri protests in 2015, she helped initiate a conversation for minority students to raise concerns with the administration.

As a student leader, Russell served as member and president of Gonzaga's Black Student Union, and this past year was appointed as one of only five student members of the University Council on Equity, Inclusion and Intercultural Awareness at Gonzaga. She also served the Spokane community in her work with the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane.

Her internship last year in Washington, D.C. affirmed her pursuit to practice law.

“I want to aid minority communities who have been and continue to be plagued by the discrimination in the details of the American legal system,” says Russell. “Eventually I hope to open my own human and civil rights law firm, and I'd like to start a community center in a low income, urban area that allows people to get the basic necessities they need when times get difficult.”

Russell looks forward to joining the close-knit community of Gates Scholars, and fighting for social justice as a supportive team.

“I applied to the Gates Public Service Law program because I care about my community and its history, its ancestors, its icons and its beauty. I want children who are part of minority communities to realize that they are more than the inaccurate depiction often painted of them by the majority. They are unique, unstoppable and unforgettable.”

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