The Asian Bar Association of Washington would like to congratulate all of our scholarship and fellowship recipients for 2023. Please join us in congratulating:
Yamashita Scholarship: Christine Choong
Christine Choong is a proud Malaysian Chinese woman and a 3L student at Seattle University School of Law. Christine was born and raised in Selangor, Malaysia, and moved to the United States when she was 18 years old. Prior to law school, Christine has been actively involved with the Asian Pacific Islander community. Christine worked at the International Rescue Committee’s Naturalization Unit assisting low-income immigrants with their citizenship applications. When anti-Asian racism surged during the COVID 19 pandemic, she went on to join Asian Americans Advancing Justice as a multilingual voter representative to encourage the API community to participate in our democracy by voting and holding elected officials accountable.
At Seattle University School of Law, Christine served as the Events Director for the Asian Law Students Association (ALSA) and planned events to create a sense of belonging and support for the students. She is also a volunteer at the Chinese Information and Service Center Legal Clinic. Since May 2023, Christine has been an intern with Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, working in the Violence Against Women Act unit and Family Services Unit. Upon graduation from law school, Christine hopes to seek a career as an immigration attorney to defend and promote the rights of immigrants.
Sharon A. Sakamoto President’s Scholarship: Bernadette Michelle G. Peña
Bernadette is a 3L at the University of Washington School of Law. She immigrated from the Philippines with her parents and sister to the United States eight years ago. Before law school, she worked as a compliance auditor for a non-profit organization called the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging which has been one of her motivations to go to law school to represent Asian immigrants. Currently, she is studying abroad in Japan to not only broaden her learnings about international law but to also go back to her Asian roots while also learning a new culture.
Entering the Seattle legal field as an immigrant, she hopes to use her law degree to give back to the community that has supported her through this journey. She wishes to be a resource and a future mentor to other immigrants who aspire to go to law school. She is grateful for the membership that the current ABAW members have given her, and she hopes to pass on the same support to future law students.
ABAWSSF General Scholarship: Tsechu Dolma
Tsechu is a second-year law student at Seattle University, where she is co-president of Middle Eastern South Asian Law Student Association and the co-president of the Public Interest Law Foundation. Post-law school she intends to engage in policy advocacy for migrants' rights.
ABAWSSF General Scholarship: Erica Li
Erica Li is a 3L student at Gonzaga University School of Law. Having immigrated from China to the United States at the age of 10, her passion for supporting immigrants was kindled by her personal journey of overcoming language barriers and adapting to a new country. Throughout her academic journey, she has actively volunteered for the API community, providing assistance to immigrant students and organizing cultural heritage events, including Lunar New Year celebrations. During law school, Erica has consistently supported attorneys and clients as a volunteer at the Chinese Information and Services Center (CISC) legal clinic, and she has further advanced the API community's interests by serving as the ABAW student representative and presiding as the president of the Multicultural Law Caucus. Following graduation, Erica envisions a career filled with active involvement in the ABAW and continued service to the API community.
ABAWSSF General Scholarship: Tiana Pereira
Tiana is a third-year law student at Seattle University School of Law, set to graduate in May 2024. Her passion lies in litigation and direct client representation, and she is committed to fighting for the rights of all people. Before law school, she worked as a Registered Behavioral Technician, addressing the needs of students on the autism spectrum, which motivated her decision to pursue a legal career to tackle broader systemic issues in education.
During law school, she gained practical experience through various internships. She has presented legal rights information to youth at the King County Juvenile Detention Center, worked on health care law matters including safe and accessible abortion care at Seattle Children's Hospital, and served clients and appeared in criminal hearings with her Rule 9 License.
Beyond her studies, she is involved on campus as the Secretary of the Moot Court Board, Vice President of Social Relations for the Alternative Dispute Resolution, and the Co-Founder and President of the Pacific Islander Law Student Association. She was also honored as one of the 25 Law Students who Soar during the 2022–23 school year. Tiana’s multifaceted background and experiences have prepared her to make a significant impact in the legal profession, and she is eager to embark on this fulfilling journey as she prepares to graduate and serve as an advocate for justice and equality.
Spring Blossom Fellowship: Arren Hernandez
Arren is a 3L at the University of Washington School of Law. At UW, he served as the Vice-President of Community Outreach & Events for the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association (APALSA).
Here are a few words from Arren:
I want to start off by saying thank you to everyone at the Asian Bar Association of Washington and the Asian Bar Association Student Scholarship Foundation for making it possible for students interested in public interest to pursue practice fields that may have been previously inaccessible. The Spring Blossom Fellowship is a wonderful opportunity that has helped students support themselves while doing work that is vital to the community. I am grateful for the opportunity awarded to me by ABAW, Hon. Lorraine Lee, and John Felleisen and hope to continue to do work that helps the communities I am a part of.
This summer I had the pleasure of serving the community of my home state of California and working at the Los Angeles County Public Defender as a Certified Law Clerk. As with any Public Defender's office, the LA County Public Defender represents low-income individuals in criminal court. With the crisis of mass incarceration, which disproportionately impacts low-income communities of color, the work of a Public Defender is a vital service offered to those caught up in our criminal justice system. LA County is one of the biggest and most diverse counties in all of the United States with over 9 million residents. An estimated 33% of the total population of LA are people who have immigrated to the U.S., meaning immigrants are a central part of the LA community.
Incarceration is not only a detriment to the incarcerated individual but to their family and to the community they are a part of. This is even more true for those whose immigration status is less straightforward. Undocumented individuals face the risk of deportation not only threatening their own well-being but the well-being of their family and their community. That is why I believe the work of public defenders is so vital as to mitigate some of the harm directed towards those that society has turned their back on.
At the LA County Public Defender’s office, I had the opportunity to work directly with clients and represent them in court. Many of our clients struggled with issues such as homelessness, substance abuse, and poverty and it was frustrating to see them being detained instead of receiving the care they needed. I am a firm believer in rehabilitation and I believe that putting people in prison does not help them deal with the underlying issues that led to them being arrested in the first place. It is good to see that some cities and counties are beginning to embrace a more restorative justice approach, but there is still a lot of room for improvement.
Our criminal justice system is not perfect and that can lead to some devastating consequences for some of our most vulnerable community members. Many of the root causes of mass incarceration are systemic issues, not solved by putting people behind bars. If we want change, we need to practice empathy and patience with those going through our criminal justice system. Without this, nothing can change.
- Arren Hernandez
ABAW Student Scholarship Foundation Scholarship
The Asian Bar Association of Washington Student Scholarship Foundation (“ABAWSSF”) provides financial assistance in the form of scholarships to students of Asian heritage currently pursuing a J.D. degree at law schools in the State of Washington. For 2023, ABAWSSF will award five scholarships in the following amounts:
The Yamashita Scholarship is named after Takuji Yamashita (1874–1959). Mr. Yamashita was born in Japan and emigrated to the United States in the 1890s. He graduated from Tacoma High School in two years, graduated with a law degree from the University of Washington as a part of its second-ever graduating class, and passed the state bar exam. However, in processing his bar application, the Washington State Supreme Court issued a decision that Mr. Yamashita was not eligible to be an American citizen and, therefore, could not practice law. This decision was overturned, posthumously, nearly 100 years later on March 1, 2001.
The Sharon A. Sakamoto President's Scholarship is named after Sharon Sakamoto, ABAW’s first President (and one if its founders) in 1988. In law school, Ms. Sakamoto was a part of the legal team for Gordon Hirabayashi, a Japanese American convicted of civil disobedience during World War II. Ms. Sakamoto is now retired, but her prior law practice at Aoki Sakamoto Grant emphasized justice and equality and meeting the needs of clients in the areas of business, estate planning, immigration, and criminal defense. In addition to being active in local and minority bar associations, she has served on the board of Kawabe Memorial House and many other organizations.
Application Process and Requirements
To be eligible for a scholarship, you must be a law student of Asian heritage, currently enrolled in a law school in the State of Washington, and pursuing a J.D. degree. The following materials are required to apply for the scholarships:
All application materials must be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than 5 p.m. on Friday, October 6, 2023. Applications must be in either .PDF or Microsoft Word format.
Candidates in consideration for the next phase of the scholarship process will be contacted on Monday, October 9, 2023, to schedule an interview. Interviews are currently scheduled to be held on Wednesday, October 11, 2023, by video conference and will last no more than 20 minutes each.
The recipients of the 2023 ABAWSSF Scholarships will be notified on Friday, October 13, 2023. A formal announcement of the selected recipients will be made on a later date through the Asian Bar Association of Washington (“ABAW”) newsletter and website. In preparation for the announcement, scholarship recipients may be required to work with ABAWSSF to record a short video introducing themselves and briefly describing what the scholarship means to them, along with their plans to contribute to the API community in the future. By applying for a scholarship, an applicant agrees to provide such video and to permit the ABAWSSF and/or ABAW to publish any and all information contained in the applicant’s application materials.
*ABAWSSF reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to change the number of scholarships awarded, the dollar amount of each scholarship, and/or to not award any scholarships in 2023.
*Please note that past scholarship recipients and immediate family members of current ABAWSSF and ABAW voting board members are ineligible for a 2023 ABAWSSF Scholarship.
ABAW Student Scholarship Foundation Scholarship
2023 SPRING BLOSSOM FELLOWSHIP APPLICATION PROCESS NOW OPEN!
The Asian Bar Association of Washington is excited to announce the return of the Spring Blossom Fellowship for 2023!
The fellowship will provide one grant of up to $5,000 to a JD student attending a law school in the State of Washington (Gonzaga, SU, or UW) and who will be working with a public interest/service organization during Summer of 2023 and whose work advances the rights of women and/or immigrants. Applicants must contact a potential employer himself/herself/themselves and arrange for a position in order to qualify for the fellowship. Thus, applicants should start the process of seeking a summer position as soon as possible.
Funding for the fellowship is made possible by a generous donation from Hon. Lorraine Lee and John Felleisen, in partnership with the Asian Bar Association of Washington Student Scholarship Foundation, in the name of and in honor and memory of, Chun Lan “Spring Blossom” Ng Woo, 1918-2008, an immigrant woman from China who lived her life with integrity, courage, and resilience.
While the fellowship was inspired by the pressing needs of immigrant women, the criteria for award of the fellowship is broader. The fellowship is available to JD students working with a public interest/service organization and whose work advances the rights of women and/or immigrants; the organization does not need to “specialize” in or solely address issues related to the rights of women and/or immigrants. Further, an applicant need not work only on projects related to the rights of women and/or immigrants during the term of the fellowship, as long as some of the applicant’s work will help advance such rights. The extent to which the work advances the rights of women and/or immigrants will be just one factor in awarding the fellowship.
Completed application packets must be submitted by email to the ABAW Scholarship Co-Chairs, Madi Uekawa at Madisyn.Uekawa@klgates.com and William Wu at William.Wu@dwt.com, by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, March 31, 2023. Applicants selected for the interview phase of the selection process will be notified during the first week of April. Interviews will take place on April 6, 2023.
For more information and to obtain application materials, please contact:
Madi Uekawa and William Wu
ABAW Scholarship Co-Chairs
The Asian Bar Association of Washington would like to congratulate all of our scholarship and fellowship recipients for 2022. Please join us in congratulating:
Takuji Yamashita Scholarship: Kathy Au
Kathy is a 2L student at Gonzaga University School of Law and started first ever Asian American Union at Gonzaga University during her college years. In college, she endeavored to increase awareness of the API undocumented community and made Gonzaga more inclusive. After graduation from college, she committed to two terms as a College Access AmeriCorps member at Gonzaga University’s Center for Community Engagement where she was serving Northeast Spokane and continued creating spaces for API students within the institution. In her first year in law school, she, alongside a group of students of like mind, reformed the Asian Pacific Islander Law Caucus. Upon graduation, she intends to be an attorney that builds spaces for those after her, uses her voice to amplify others, and fights for an equitable interpretation of the law.Sharon A. Sakamoto President’s Scholarship: Brianne Zamora
Bree is a 2L student at Seattle University School of Law. Bree was born in the Philippines and raised in Hawaii. She is a first-generation professional in her family. She chose to go to law school with two purposes: to represent her community and to diversify the legal profession. At Tides Foundation, she designed a resource group for API+ employees and advocated and launched an API expedited grantmaking program to better serve the API community. By diversifying the legal profession, she aspires to showcase the AIP community’s diverse intersectional identity and challenges. As president of the Asian Pacific Islander Law Students Association in law school, she has concrete plans to create a more inclusive environment for all API students. After graduation, she would like to seek a career in the public interest section to bridge the access to justice gap and to make a difference by advocating for those marginalized, oppressed, and persecuted in the API community.
ABAWSSF General Scholarship: Gabriela Dionisio
Gabriela is an 1L student at Seattle University School of Law. As a daughter of first-generation immigrants from the Philippines, she is proud of her identity. Since teenage, she has been actively involved with the Asian Pacific Islander community. Before law school, Gabriela worked for City of Seattle and National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development. She worked with the Chinatown International District neighborhood throughout college. At law school, Gabriela actively participates in various diverse student organizations, such as APILSA and Women of Color Coalition to help build an inclusive community at Seattle University. After graduation from law school, she will continue working with the API community.
ABAWSSF General Scholarship: Jessica Yin
Jessica is an 1L student at University of Washington School of Law. In college Jessica endeavored to raise awareness on campus about how misogyny and racism intersects to negatively impact Asian American women and as the student president, led discussions about addressing barriers to success for students of color. Prior to law school, she had meaningful work for the API community through employment: worked on the K-12 education policy team at a think-tank to highlight certain key educational needs of the AAPI community and to organize a virtual event where the AAPI educators, students and advocates could share their wisdom and perspectives directly to audience on issues the community is facing. Upon graduation from law school, she intends to be a public interest lawyer that represents individuals from historically marginalized communities and fights for systemic changes.
Spring Blossom Fellowship Recipient: Wendy Roman
Wendy Roman is a 2L at the University of Washington School of Law and a leader and passionate advocate for immigrant rights. Inspired by her lived experience and her family’s immigration journey, she is pursuing a career in immigration law and is driven to promote justice by defending the rights of immigrants through direct legal services, advocacy, and community education.
Here are a few words from Wendy:
As the recipient of the 2022 ABAW Spring Blossom Fellowship, I want to extend my sincere gratitude to the Asian Bar Association of Washington, Asian Bar Association Student Scholarship Foundation, Hon. Lorraine Lee, and John Felleisen for offering me their support this summer as I immersed myself in immigration work. The Spring Blossom Fellowship was created to advance the rights of immigrant women in honor of Chuan Lan Ng Woo, who lived her life with strength and honor, and highlighted the resilient spirit of millions of immigrants in this country.
This summer, I had the chance to serve as a legal intern for the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (“NWIRP”) out of their office in Tacoma, WA. While at NWIRP, my primary responsibility was to help clients apply for U-Visas. As defined by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U Visas are, “set aside for victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity.” This humanitarian relief aims to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute criminal activity for public safety.
While these visas provide relief for undocumented immigrants in this country who have survived instances of violence or crime, the process to complete an application is long and painful, as applicants are asked to relive the trauma in as much detail as possible. During the application process, applicants provide police reports, photos of their injuries, letters from their therapists, case notes from their social workers, and any evidence proving they “suffered mental and physical abuse,” as required by the Immigration and Nationality Act. To compile an application is to relive the nightmare from start to finish, and to convince the US government you cooperated enough and suffered enough to merit relief. The application process is unforgiving, and it was my responsibility to guide clients through the many forms and statements and declarations while minimizing the harm caused by the recollection of the abuse they suffered.
The clients I worked with were all women who experienced instances of domestic violence at the hands of their past partners. While taking their declarations, they told me in excruciating detail the type of violence they endured, the fear they lived with, and the amount of courage it took to come forward and report the abuse to the police. Every day, I was impressed by the bravery of my clients. They pursued their cases with diligence, patience, and hope.
Still, our immigration system is not something people should place all their faith in. Currently, the US only grants ten thousand U Visas per year, making the backlog of applicants stretch into the hundreds of thousands. If an applicant applies today, they are expected to receive approval in about ten years. It was difficult to explain the wait time to clients, to try and conceptualize what a decade could look like for them. On multiple occasions, I had to admit they would be in limbo for years before an immigration official even looked at their application, but they all believed this option was better than nothing. This option was better than living in the shadows, and continuing to feel like they would never be welcomed in.
During my time at NWIRP, I also had the opportunity to work on education and advocacy efforts. With my immediate supervisor, we hosted Know Your Rights presentations for teachers and counselors from a middle school and high school in Grays Harbor County. These community advocates were eager to help their students, many of whom are non-English speakers recently arrived from Afghanistan and Venezuela. They were brimming with questions, about intakes and procedures and resources beyond legal services that they could offer to their students. During both presentations, it was important to affirm the fact that safety nets for immigrants are a community-wide effort. I am a firm believer that pathways to belonging and acceptance begin with education but must be reinforced by collective action. We told folks that learning about immigrant rights was a crucial step, but providing additional resources like tax filing nights, ESL courses, letters of support, and DACA-informed college prep was also integral to this process.
I completed my internship with the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project in the shadow of the 2022 midterms. As politicians all around the country riled up voters, some lawmakers turned to age-old, anti-immigrant rhetoric. This rhetoric, based in exclusion and unwelcoming, tries to bring out the worst in the American electorate. More than ever, immigration work sits at the center of national dialogues about belonging and our values as a country. As a nation, we can buy into words of division, or we can build our communities stronger by welcoming the arduous work and hope of people simply looking for a better life.
As an immigration legal service provider, I believe a collected effort is necessary to fight back against dangerous rhetoric to restore humanity and dignity to the plight of migrants coming to our country. We must be louder than hate and stand taller than walls. Our empathy must be intersectional and long-lasting to ensure our communities are built to withstand the bad-faith efforts of people looking to make our country cruel again.