Students' Experiences

CURRENT FELLOWS

  • Beatriz Aguirre

    My pathway to public interest began as a community organizer advocating for comprehensive immigration reform and later, as a social worker, working in juvenile probation. I began to see the disparities in access to justice for underrepresented and undocumented communities and became passionate about changing the system across picket lines. I returned to school for a master's degree in social work and now law school in order to become a better advocate for the community. … Not everyone is able to be in a position to advocate for others. It is a privilege to be in law school as a first-generation Latina and daughter of immigrants. Everyone needs an advocate at some point in their lives and, as future attorneys, we are in a unique position to speak up and make a world of difference to our clients and community.
    - Beatriz Aguirre, Class of 2018

  • Julia Barker

    In college, I focused on student government as well as volunteered for an organization that strove to ensure that everyone had access to the judicial system and received fair treatment. After college, I worked for the Nevada Legislature as a Senate Committee on Judiciary Secretary where my desire to serve the public grew. … Knowing that the work I do is meant to benefit the public or a single person who otherwise would not have the access to legal assistance is the most rewarding thing about public interest work. I think that the purpose of the legal profession is to help people, which is why I like public interest work because I will be able to help those who may not otherwise have access to the kinds of legal assistance they may require. 
    - Julia Barker, Class of 2018

  • Yvanna Cancela

    Boyd's commitment to being a resource to the community, is in my opinion, one of its greatest strengths. I feel privileged to be a Public Interest Fellow and get to work with some of the brightest professors and students alike. Together, there is a shared vision for ensuring our legal work is serving our most vulnerable populations and meeting the needs of our state. I have spent most of my professional life fighting for immigrant rights and better access to healthcare. I know this fellowship will give me the tools to continue in the struggle for justice while working with the Boyd network and beyond.
    - Yvanna Cancela, Class of 2020

  • Matthew Cook

    I saw Boyd as a great opportunity to give back and strengthen the community. There are members in our community that struggle each and every day, but their voices go unheard. I wanted to be their voice when they had none and make a life changing impact. I feel that in some ways I have, but there is always more work to be done. It was an honor to receive the Public Interest Fellowship in recognition of my community service activities.
    Matthew Cook, Class of 2018

  • Hayley Cummings

    My pathway to public interest law most certainly began early on in my life. As a child, my mother worked as a teacher in low-income schools with special needs students. I had the opportunity to spend time with her students as a peer model during the summer months. I quickly recognized the importance of helping those in need and dedicating my life to public interest in some capacity when I was older. After college, I joined a national teaching organization and taught eighth grade science for two years in a Title I school. Through my experiences as a teacher, my desire to work in public interest law was definitely rekindled. … Participating in the fellowship program means that I am able to focus on my chosen career path more intently with real life application and the guidance of like-minded mentors. The fellowship also means that I can focus less on my financial needs and focus more on securing a career where I can truly help those in need within the Las Vegas community. 
    Hayley Cummings, Class of 2018

  • Jordan Doctors

    I learned about community service and giving back to the community at a very early age. As a child I was taught the values of tzedakah and tikkun olam. One of our Hanukkah presents every year was a donation to a charity of our choice. Since middle school, I have been volunteering at the AFAN Aids Walk every spring. My synagogue had a program where during our b'nei mitzvah year we would each find different projects in the community to work with. My great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents all instilled these values into me. Through my legal education at Boyd, I've now developed skills that I can put to use in the community to help others. Going into my third year at Boyd, through the Volunteer Education Advocate program I've been able to assist foster children and ensure that their educational needs are met, through the Partners in Pro Bono program I've helped an individual recover from a garage shop that was taking advantage of him, I've helped multiple people with the unemployment benefits, I've educated many individuals on family law and small claims issues with our community service classes, I've helped defend low income individuals from being evicted by their landlords through my internship with Nevada Legal Services with a grant from PILA, I've helped seal I don't even know how many criminal records at NLS, and just recently with the immigration clinic been able to assist individuals renew their DACA applications. Boyd has so many different opportunities to be able to help our community, and the PIF program helps unlock even more.
    Jordan Doctors, Class of 2018

  • Alysa Grimes

    Boyd has an incredible commitment to public interest that drew me in almost immediately. I've known for a long time that I wanted to work in public interest, but I didn't always know what exactly I wanted to do. I've tried many different paths including social work, higher education, and nonprofit, but nothing felt just right until I started school at Boyd. This scholarship eases the pressure on my now one-income household, and ensures that I will be able to pursue meaningful work after graduation without being pushed into a corner by financial need. I'm also able to try any type of internship or externship I'm drawn to because I don't have to worry about making money right now. Those experiences have and will help me to find where my experience and strengths can best be put to use for the betterment of my community. 
    Alysa Grimes, Class of 2018

  • Aleasa Guerra

    Starting from a young age I enjoyed helping others, whether that was volunteering at a women's shelter or packing meals for kids in need. Once I entered college I found what I was truly passionate about. I was the president of a student organization that taught students about consent and helped victims of sexual violence. We collaborated with the university to create consent curriculum and improve programs to help victims. I knew that this was something I wanted to continue with my career. When I decided to go to law school I wanted to attend a school with a strong commitment to community service and a good public interest program. Boyd's Public Interest Fellowship Program was what really drew me to the school. Being given the opportunity to find a mentor in the public interest field and receive financial support is so helpful for setting me up for success in a career where I can help victims.
    Aleasa Guerra, Class of 2020

  • Paloma M. Guerrero

    Public interest law is the best way to focus my time and attention as a law student when I am not in a classroom. Volunteering gives me an opportunity to try and make someone's life just a little bit easier, to try and better the world in which we live, and to try and be an example for others who also want to give back. Being a student at Boyd has equipped me with knowledge and skills about the law that much of the general population do not receive. One of the most important lessons I learned during my first year is how valuable and powerful this knowledge can be to someone else. Being the president of the Immigration Law Society and OUTLaws allows me to support the underserved LGBTQ and immigrant population while taking an intersectional approach in dealing with any problems my community may face. Being a public interest fellow allows me to be a more effective leader knowing that I am equipped with resources and a supportive base. I hope to always be an advocate for those who need it most, and to always strive to help others.
    Paloma M. Guerrero, Class of 2019

  • Andrea Mass

    I have considered myself an advocate for social justice since I was a kid. So maybe those weren't the terms I used, but I knew I wanted to be a voice for the less fortunate in our society. I have worked consistently in government and non-profit organizations, including the United Way in Detroit, the Dept. of Jobs and Family Services in Cleveland, and as an Investigator with the State of NV Equal Rights Commission here in Las Vegas. During my time at the Commission, I investigated allegations of discrimination in the areas of employment, housing, and public accommodation. Just recently, I accepted an Investigator position with the Clark County Special Public Defender's office. While always proud of what I was doing, there was a lingering feeling that I could be doing more. I knew obtaining a law degree would empower me to have a more significant impact and be a stronger voice for those I was serving; unfortunately, however, the financial burdens associated with law school can make the decision quite difficult. This is true for anyone, but especially for those of us dedicated to serving the community. After years of thinking about it, I finally decided to take the leap and apply to UNLV and am so happy I did. This fellowship allows me to get a quality education while being able to focus on what truly matters to me: helping others! Thank you, Boyd!
    Andrea Mass, Class of 2020

  • Hannah Nelson

    Being named a Public Interest Fellow was the driving factor for me in becoming part of the Boyd family. I am proud and grateful to be part of a school that is centered on giving back to the community and those in need. Since I was a child, I was determined to change the world and make a difference. As I have grown, my dreams have become slightly more realistic and my determination has shifted to helping my community and making a difference in the city I love. I am a native Las Vegan and I love this city and state. Over the past few years, I have worked tirelessly to find an arena where I felt I could make the biggest difference. I completed internships at both the British Houses of Parliament and on Capitol Hill before finally finding my true passion of capital defense litigation. After an internship at the Clark County Public Defender's Office, I quickly realized that pursing a legal degree was the path I wanted to take. I am humbled to be able to pursue my dream of helping others at a school that makes that possible and to do my part to ensure everyone, regardless of race, gender, or socioeconomic standing, has their voice heard. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
    Hannah Nelson, Class of 2020

  • Kami Orton

    My path to law school has been somewhat nontraditional. I never dreamed I would become an attorney. However, I have always had a passion for helping others. I hope to advocate for children. In our society, children are an extremely vulnerable population. I would like to be a voice for those who are unable to speak for themselves. I would like to assist those who are victims of abuse and neglect. I feel very honored to be a Public Interest Fellow. This opportunity allows me to focus on my education and developing myself as an attorney, so I will be able to provide excellent service in the community. I am grateful for the opportunities Boyd provides for students to begin serving members of the community. I look forward to learning from professors, peers, and other community members.
    Kami Orton, Class of 2020

  • Lyssa Owens

    I currently work as an elementary school teacher and, in the last few years, I have noticed how little a voice children and their parents have within the school system regarding their education. I believe the main reason for this is the lack of knowledge they have to make the best decisions for their education. Unfortunately, I found this to be most true for children with special needs. I would like to become an advocate for those children and their parents, to help them make knowledgeable decisions about their education and prepare them to be successful in the future. … I have found that being a Public Interest Fellow has allowed me to receive mentoring to guide me in my career path. It has given me the opportunity to hear from others who have pursued public interest law and how it has made a difference to them, and it has allowed me to have discussions with my peers who are interested in the same areas of law that I am. 
    - Lyssa Owens, Class of 2018

  • Ebeth Palafox

    Joining the Boyd family and having the privilege to be selected as a Public Interest Fellow has created the ultimate opportunity to be the best advocate to those that propelled me to where I am today and I owe everything I am to. As far back as I can remember, my answer to the age-old question “What are you going to be when you grow up?” has always been one thing – a lawyer. My reasoning has differed over the years, but the constant has always been my desire to help others. In 2010, I started my career in public interest as a campaign field organizer and never looked back. Whether it was running a program registering Latinos in Nevada in 2014, lobbying for equal access to education for minority students, immigration casework as a representative for U.S. Senator Harry Reid, it has all served as motivation to continue to pursue justice, equity, and opportunities for those constantly fighting for their right to be heard. 
    - Ebeth Palafox, Class of 2019

  • Roman Reid

    Being a Public Interest Fellow at Boyd means not having to sacrifice service for education. As a father of five and part-time student I am able to spend time with my family, work and still find community service events that work with my schedule. Those service opportunities are available to 1Ls, 2Ls and 3Ls alike. Moreover, as a Public Interest Fellow, exposure to like-minded professionals in the judicial, legislative, non-profit, business, civil service and educational sectors is unprecedented. 
    - Roman Reid, Class of 2020

  • Wynn Tashman

    Public interest work creates a visible impact on people's lives and in the community at-large. The public interest work I have been involved with is fundamentally changing the legal culture of Las Vegas for the LGBT community. I work with Nevada Legal Services to provide free name changes and gender marker changes for transgender clients who are experiencing financial poverty. Unfortunately, this legal process is not enough to fix all of the negative treatment transgender individuals endure in society. However, this public interest work offers transgender individuals a fresh starting point to live life authentically, recognized and accepted by the legal system.
    - Wynn Tashman, Class of 2018

  • Casey Thomas

    I was thrust into public service when, at 20 years old, I was elected to the city council of Opelousas, Louisiana. I later went on to serve as vice-chair (in charge of elected officials) for the Louisiana Democratic Party. I believed then that I possessed the ambition, capacity, and vision to make impact, and yet today, I hold firm in that belief. I have worked incredibly hard to achieve my current standing in life. However, I was also guided here by the encouragement, support, mentorship, and challenging of many. It, thus, behooves me to employ my skills and talents in some measure for the advancement of the community, to pay it forward. There is much to be done, and I am audacious enough to affirm that I can do something about it. I am honored to have been named a Public Interest Fellow. I am grateful for the confidence of the Boyd School of Law.
    Casey Thomas, Class of 2020

  • Seleste Hamilton

    In high school, I was a teen lawyer for a program called Trial by Peers. I will never forget the first time I walked into a courtroom. I felt at home, and it was in that moment I knew I wanted to become a lawyer to help those in need. I was raised in Nevada and I felt I could do the most public good if I attended a law school in the area I would practice in. As a first-generation college student, this fellowship means I can afford to go to law school without being distracted by work. I can then further concentrate my efforts toward my goal of becoming an advocate for those who cannot afford legal representation. Once I started law school, my goals aligned perfectly with public interest work and I became a fellow to immerse myself within this field of law. 
    Seleste Wyse, Class of 2018

ALUMNI

  • Kimie Beverly

    I currently serve as the President of the National Federation of the Blind in Nevada (NFB). I oversee the programs, services, and legislative initiatives in Nevada. We have the largest scholarship program in the country and a smaller program in Nevada for students who are blind and visually impaired. … Working with the NFB has helped me identify numerous issues that confront people with disabilities in Nevada related to education, employment, and raising a family. My experience as a Public Interest Fellow has taught me that Nevada needs attorneys who can advocate for clients with these issues. 
    - Kimie Beverly, Class of 2016

  • Bailey Bortolin

    It was an honor to be selected as a Public Interest Fellow because Boyd validated and encouraged my goals. I encourage everyone who is interested in making a difference to apply. I've heard students' reservations that while they volunteer or while they have public interest goals, they're nervous they don't do enough. Everyone who wants to make a difference feels like they're not doing enough, so chances are that means you are having an impact. Express your goals and desire to help, and Boyd will offer you an opportunity to do just that. 
    - Bailey Bortolin, Class of 2015

  • Jonathan Chung

    I'm excited to know that Boyd is invested in public interest by providing programs like the Public Interest Fellowship Program. I have a strong affinity toward community service, and my background working at a legal, nonprofit organization added tools in which to help veterans and low-income families with landlord/tenant issues, tax controversies, and foreclosure mediation. I hope to continue seeking opportunities during my law school career and beyond to strengthen the community by ensuring fairness and providing equal access to justice for low-income families and individuals.
    - Jonathan Chung, Class of 2017

  • Tanya Fraser

    I like having my transcript and resume reflect that public interest law (namely, the interests of Native American tribes) has a very important place in both my academic and professional careers. The summer before I was awarded the Public Interest Fellowship, I worked with the Moapa Band of Paiutes (which is just north of Las Vegas) under a grant from the Public Interest Law Association at Boyd. The next year I continued working with the Tribe to revise their Law and Order Code. Working with the Tribe has helped me develop valuable connections in Indian Country and has reinforced my resolve to advocate for tribal sovereignty.
    - Tanya Fraser, Class of 2015

  • Jessica Gandy

    I've worked for the Clark County School District for the past nine years. All of those years have been in Title 1 schools, so I've always taught at-risk students, and in a sense, have always been working in public interest. For five of those nine years, I have worked in CCSD consequence schools – those are small schools for students who have been removed from the traditional educational setting – many for legal offenses (drugs, battery, etc.). Despite their offense, they are still kids, and are still deserving of an education. In spending time with my students, I have seen so many of them go to prison, because that is the only life they know. After a few years, I decided I wanted to start working with them from another direction, which led to my law school application. I didn't apply (for a fellowship) until my last year of law school, so I'd been doing public interest work the entire time. For me, this was recognition of that work, which I appreciate. 
    - Jessica Gandy, Class of 2016

  • Amy Horne

    The Public Interest Fellowship is the reason I chose the Boyd School of Law over the other places I was accepted. The financial benefit was obvious, but hardly the only reason. The Public Interest Fellowship told me Boyd was different from other law schools and offered opportunities I otherwise would not have had. The difference in Boyd is both in curriculum and culture. Because of the Saltman Center for Conflict Resolution, Boyd offers excellent opportunities to learn and practice ways to solve disputes. Boyd's culture encourages students toward community service and leadership. The summer stipend included in the Public Interest Fellowship opened doors to opportunities I otherwise would not have had … working with the Water Master of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta; in Senator Harry Reid's office in Washington, D.C.; and the Natural Resources Defense Counsel … opportunities that enabled me to learn about different kinds of institutions and make new connections. 
    - Amy Horne, Class of 2016

  • Kaitlyn Leese

    Katelyn represented unaccompanied immigrant children under a justice AmeriCorps grant at the Boyd School of Law's Thomas & Mack Immigration Clinic. The following excerpt is from a March 24, 2016 interview she and fellow Boyd alumna Alissa Cooley gave to NPR's Desert Companion on their work for the clinic: “Who wouldn't want a job where you're fighting injustice and helping children? It's a privilege to do what we're doing. …If you want to talk about sacrifices, let's talk about the sacrifices the children have made to be here. They travel hundreds, thousands of miles, get kidnapped, raped on the way. All so they can live in a place where their lives won't be at risk.” 
    - Katelyn Leese, Class of 2014

  • Kandis McClure

    As I applied to law schools, I focused on schools that had a clear focus on promoting public interest law and that were highly involved in the communities they were located within – this is where Boyd first stood out to me. I never planned to move to Las Vegas prior to visiting Boyd, but I was so impressed with the faculty and the opportunity to apply for the Public Interest Fellowship that it quickly made its way to the top of my list of potential schools. When I received the call informing me that I had been selected as a Public Interest Fellow, I knew that I could not pass up the opportunity. For me, being selected was a chance to focus on a career that I wanted at an institution that has an excellent reputation regionally and nationally and that saw the importance in the public interest and policy work I wanted to do. Following the call, I packed up my things in Los Angeles and moved to Las Vegas in short order, fully intending to take advantage of the exceptional program Boyd offered. … [My] experiences created a unique resume that led me to my current role as a policy advisor with Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck on the Las Vegas Government Affairs Team. As a policy advisor, I analyze legislation and potential legislation to look for impacts to a variety of clients. In my role I also craft public policy strategies and assist clients in navigating the regulatory process through coalition building, testimony, and talking points. 
    - Kandis McClure, Class of 2014

  • Scott Morris

    I was a high school educator for two years prior to law school and this experience opened my eyes to the various ways to make a positive impact within the public sector. To be selected as a Public Interest Fellow was an honor. I saw being named a Public Interest Fellow as an opportunity to learn and gain exposure in areas that I am passionate about. Additionally, I was excited to learn from some of the best leaders in the Las Vegas community.
    - Scott Morris, Class of 2016

  • Andrea Orwoll

    For me, it is all about the community and seeing the community grow and be able to advocate for itself. I'll never forget one of the little girls I taught while working on the Zuni Reservation in New Mexico. She came up to me the second year I was there and told me she was going to be an attorney and advocate for the reservation. I was excited! I know I wasn't the only one to influence her, but even to have a little impact – changing someone's trajectory – I thought “I hope she grows up to become an attorney” because the Native reservations really need it. Being able to change the trajectory of even one life impacts the wider community. I have refused to be one of those people who wants to change the world when they're in college and then when they hit the real world, they say “Oh no, it can't be done.” I refuse to believe it can't be done. 
    - Andrea Orwoll, Class of 2017

  • Jessica Perlick

    I approached my fellowship as a way to experience things I would not otherwise be able to, and to learn the most I could about access to justice and the definition of public interest law. To that end, I used my summer stipend to attend the Boyd Human Rights Practicum in New Delhi, India during winter break my 2L year. While in India, I worked with a women's rights organization doing research on "honor" killings. I ultimately wrote a research paper on the topic. Through the Human Rights Practicum, I was able to observe court at a variety of levels and learn more about the way in which another country approaches public interest, all while experiencing a culture that is drastically different than my own.
    - Jessica Perlick, Class of 2013

  • Shannon Phenix

    Access to a high-quality law school in my home state and the possibility to fund my legal education through scholarships has meant the world to me. This support enabled me to focus on helping my community and building a career in public interest law. Community support for the Boyd School of Law enables students to make meaningful changes in the state during law school and immediately upon graduation.
    - Shannon Phenix, Class of 2014

  • Shaina Plaksin

    Being a Public Interest Fellow helped me to better understand the meaning of public interest law. Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez-Masto came to speak at a public interest lunch during my 1L year. Until then, I was unaware that this work fell under the public interest umbrella; I presumed that public interest law was narrowly defined as work for non-profit legal services like Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada or Nevada Legal Services. This new understanding led me to work at the fraud prosecution unit of the Nevada Attorney General's office during the summer after my 1L year. As any first legal job, this fellowship was my first exposure to the practicalities of the law. Now, as a graduate, I understand that my work as a judicial clerk is similarly considered public interest law, by helping to achieve justice and ensure public trust in the justice system.
    - Shaina Plaksin, Class of 2015

  • Carmela Reed

    Because I grew up poor and had to overcome several obstacles to even attend law school, I was drawn to public interest law. In my youth, I dropped out of high school and became a teen mother so I experienced first hand the frustration, fear, and desperation that comes with having limited resources and nowhere to turn when legal needs arise. When I was accepted to law school, I knew that I wanted to make a difference and help others find the justice that had been out of reach for me. … Being selected as a Public Interest Fellow was an incredible honor. It provided me with the support I needed to help me with my journey and served as an acknowledgement of the importance of public interest work. 
    - Carmela Reed, Class of 2011

  • Samantha Rice

    The most rewarding aspect of public interest work is discovering that you made a difference in someone's life. Most clients are truly appreciative and grateful. Seeing other dedicated individuals volunteer their time because they want to, not because they have to, restores my faith in the human race. …While working with Dr. Nathanson and the Kids' Court School, I fell in love with the program and became interested in extending its outreach. Now, I am working at the newly opened Kids' Court School in Reno to serve the children and youth of Northern Nevada. This endeavor will expose me to a new population of children who will benefit from learning about the court process.
    - Samantha Rice, Class of 2016

  • Brian Vasek

    When I learned of the Public Interest Fellowship Program during my final year at Boyd, I was excited to learn that the school would reward me for my continued desire to serve the community. Public interest was my primary focus throughout law school, but I had no idea a Public Interest Fellowship even existed. As I met the Fellows at Boyd, I learned of their achievements in the community and aspired to achieve a similar respect among my colleagues. I was eager to join them once I learned of the Public Interest Fellowship. While the Fellowship does pay for a part of my tuition, I sought the title of Public Interest Fellow so I could inspire current and prospective law students and achieve a similar admiration and respect in the community.
    - Brian Vasek, Class of 2015

  • Brittnie Watkins

    Boyd's Public Interest Fellowship propelled me into a network of individuals with similar public service ambitions and provided the financial support I needed to pursue meaningful yet unpaid work, such as educating child witnesses about the court process.
    - Brittnie Watkins, Class of 2014

  • Tyler Winkler

    Being named a Public Interest Fellow was, and is, something I am grateful for and humbled by. To be supported through Boyd was of course helpful, but it also made me proud to call it my school. There is so much to be said for the exposure to new ideas, new challenges, new humbling experiences, and the connections with educated and passionate individuals that Boyd has given me, specifically through this program. 
    - Tyler Winkler, Class of 2014