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Nicole Fordey

2565

Bold Points

2x

Finalist

1x

Winner

Bio

I am a life-long advocate for helping others reach their goals and improve their lives. I recently completed my first year of a 3-year JD program at Arizona State University Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law. I have been a clinical social worker and substance use disorder clinician for 10+ years and intend to combine my clinical knowledge and experience with a legal career. I am focused on disability civil rights law, including assisting people with mental health and/or substance use disorder issues have their rights and dignity protected. As a disabled person I know there are a lot of barriers for my community that persist to this day. I intend to fight for true equity inside and outside of the courtroom.

Education

Arizona State University-Downtown Phoenix

Doctoral degree program (PhD, MD, JD, etc.)
2023 - 2025
  • Majors:
    • Law

New England College

Master's degree program
2018 - 2020
  • Majors:
    • Public Policy Analysis

Simmons University

Master's degree program
2012 - 2014
  • Majors:
    • Social Work

Northeastern University

Bachelor's degree program
2005 - 2010
  • Majors:
    • English Language and Literature, General
  • Minors:
    • Psychology, General

Miscellaneous

  • Desired degree level:

    Doctoral degree program (PhD, MD, JD, etc.)

  • Graduate schools of interest:

  • Transfer schools of interest:

  • Majors of interest:

    • Law
  • Not planning to go to medical school
  • Career

    • Dream career field:

      Legal Services

    • Dream career goals:

    • LCSW/LISAC

      Fordey Counseling PLLC
      2021 – Present3 years

    Sports

    Badminton

    Club
    Present

    Research

    • Social Work

      Textbook Chapter Writer
      2022 – 2022

    Arts

    • Improv Boston

      Theatre
      Present

    Public services

    • Advocacy

      National Association of Social Workers
      Present

    Future Interests

    Advocacy

    Politics

    Volunteering

    Philanthropy

    Skywalker Mission Education Scholarship
    My inspiration to pursue law school stemmed from experiences as a disabled person as well as seeing my community struggle to simply live their lives alongside the not-yet disabled. My hope is that a robust legal education and real-world experience will allow me to break down the barriers most disabled people encounter when seeking legal remedies. Additionally, I want to lobby legislators to enhance protections for disabled people and increase penalties for civil rights violations. We need a better enforcement mechanism when individuals and businesses do not follow laws that protect disabled people. Currently, the burden is on the disabled person to sue if their civil rights have been infringed. I envision a system where compliance mechanisms keep businesses in line. It is only when the cost of being inaccessible is higher than the cost of adapting a physical or electronic business to be accessible to all that business owners will decide to follow the law. A legal education is important because unfortunately in the US, being able to even enter the legal field requires a wealth of knowledge that isn't available to the average person. If I have learned anything during my first year at law school it is that the reality of the legal world is very different than what the average person understands from media. There are so many rules and formalities that are impossible to know and practice without being taught. I am fortunate to attend a school that is assisting first generation college students like myself to acclimate to an entirely different culture and body of knowledge. Many of my classmates have lawyers in their immediate family and are fluent in the foreign language of the law. I did not have such an opportunity and thus law school is the only way I can begin to get introduced to what I need to know to start as well as network with the people who can mentor and guide me into this field. This scholarship would be helpful to me as I continue my law school journey. Due to my disability, I haven’t worked consistently full-time (often denied the reasonable accommodations I needed and not having the financial means to fight). In addition, as I am focused on public interest and community legal service, my internship this summer and most of the other learning opportunities are unpaid or even require me to pay to work. Any financial assistance to keep me afloat while in school will help keep my debt as low as possible and allow me to take care of my needs. I will become a lawyer no matter what, however this scholarship would make it easier to continue this path. I deserve to have some traction beneath my wheels as I embark upon this physical and mental endeavor, one that I take on with the laser focus of helping other disabled people lead full and meaningful lives.
    Margot Pickering Aspiring Attorney Scholarship
    I want to go to law school for the same reason I became a social worker and public policy advocate - because I want to leave this world better than I found it. I know that I’m not the typical law school applicant – I’m older, I already have two masters degrees, and I’m disabled. However, I think that this is an advantage. In my experience as a licensed clinical social worker and licensed substance use disorder clinician I have encountered time and time again when an issue or obstacle cannot be resolved on an individual basis. Instead, systemic change is needed to precipitate real improvement in peoples’ lives. This is what led me to obtain a degree in public policy, I wanted to better understand how our government does and does not work and the opportunities to advocate for needed changes. I feel very comfortable making arguments for public policy changes and am proud of my experiences testifying before state committees. I brought the voices of my clients (with permission) to the people making laws that affect them. I put a face on the issues being debated, that these aren’t theories and hypotheticals, but rather real decisions that will have a human impact. With the deterioration of my own health, I had to focus less on advocating for others and more for fighting to save my own life and improve my functioning and quality. I recognized that there is systemic ableism and downright hostility towards people with disabilities, including people with chronic illnesses. As I struggled against the system that was not designed for my body, my limitations not being inherent and personal but rather the real limitation being the inaccessible design and lack of consideration for anyone outside of the predetermined norm. An entire community of folks, nearly 1 in 4 Americans, have at least one disability. Yet we are disenfranchised at every turn. There is difficulty in uniting across different disabilities and recognizing collective power. Ultimately, disabled people shoulder the burden of fighting for access. When a company or organization is discriminating about disabled people by not following laws such as the ADA or more stringent local and state laws – the onus is on the disabled person to sue for change. The lack of enforcement mechanism for disabled rights’ laws further disenfranchises disabled people, ultimately a lawyer is needed to argue for change. I want to join the ranks of folks fighting for disabled rights in the courtroom. Just in 2022 the department of justice finally released their interpretation of the applicability of the ADA to electronic access (virtual and online). The DOJ has established that unequal access to electronic public spaces (such as merchant websites, entertainment streaming platforms, and many more) is discrimination in violation of federal law. Now it is up to lawyers to take up the case and force electronic spaces to be accessible. The myth that things are accessible now and disabled people are just not trying hard enough needs to be eradicated. We need more cold, hard data to show that it is the system conspiring against the disabled. We need more lawyers pointing out how and why existing frameworks apply to all spaces, that disabled people legally deserve full inclusion in all aspects of everyday life. We live in a global and digital world – and that needs to be accessible to all. I feel I could effect change in the courtroom and behind the scenes, to empower the marginalized to fight for their rights. Disabled folks, people who use drugs, victims of crime, and poor/disenfranchised folks deserve a strong advocate to make sure their legal rights are being upheld. I want to slash barriers. I believe an education at ASU will help me towards that aim and allow me the networking connections, knowledge, and experience to continue to be effective as an advocate.
    Phillip Robinson Memorial Scholarship
    After becoming disabled due to injuries caused by the genetic connective tissue disorder hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS), I was desperate to learn more about the history and current conditions of my newfound disabled community in the U.S. I leveraged my background as a clinical social worker and my education (degrees in social work and public policy) combined with my connection to the disabled community to petition the editors of a forthcoming textbook for social work students about disability to hire me to write the chapter on U.S. Disability Policies. For several months I combed the internet and my local libraries for all the information I could use to synthesize the history of major policies that affected disabled people in the U.S. from the Civil War to the present. Through my research and writing process, I recognized that large infringements on disabled peoples’ civil rights continue to persist in this country and beyond. I concluded my textbook chapter with suggestions for legislation needed to protect and uplift disabled people, call attention to the wrongs of today, and provide a road map for the necessary progressive change for true inclusivity and accessibility for all. I quickly realized that in the current structure, the burden is placed on the disabled individual to sue if they believe their civil rights have been violated. There is no enforcement mechanism to proactively discover and correct discriminatory practices of public businesses. I knew that most disabled people are not in a financial position to be able to hire counsel. Therefore, despite clear mandates for accessibility from the government, many companies large and small continue to be out of compliance. It is not until the cost of being inaccessible is more than the cost of accommodations and changes to ensure accessibility that many businesses will change their practices. I realized we need more lawyers with a focus on disability civil rights who are prepared to go up against violators. In addition, under the current structure, these lawyers need to be open to pro bono or at least reduced or sliding scale fees to make legal recourse accessible to more of this population. I believe I’ve been successful in my role as a clinical social worker, helping people find their strengths and leverage self-efficacy for positive individual change. However, I have realized that there are larger systemic changes that are needed for more disabled people to lead full lives with easy access to everything not-yet disabled people take for granted. In that moment a new desire bloomed – to be a lawyer and take on these cases. I was encouraged by supportive people in my life to investigate the logistics of law school as well as the pros and cons of reentering student life in my mid-thirties. I soon recognized that it would be a bumpy road ahead, full of detours and potential dead ends, but at the finish line would be a reward worth all the struggle – being a voice for disabled people like myself with connections to the legal world, smashing through barriers literal and figurative. I am not attracted to becoming a lawyer for financial riches, it is intangible outcomes that have always motivated my actions. You can’t put a price on helping someone assert their dignity, tell their story, and effect systemic and long-lasting change to help all others that come after. That accomplishment can’t be seen, but it will be felt, and I want to be a part of it. I am now coming to the end of my first semester of law school and I persevere towards change.
    @ESPdaniella Disabled Degree Scholarship
    I have been a lifelong advocate for others, and soon (after I graduate law school) I will have the opportunity to be an advocate for myself and others like me who continue to be treated as less than human due to our disabilities. I am not attracted to becoming a lawyer for financial riches. You can’t put a price on helping someone assert their dignity, tell their story, and effect systemic and long-lasting change to help all others that come after. I want to help demystify the legal process and encourage more lawyers to enter disability civil rights law and understand the obstacles that persist. I am very eager to continue my lifelong pattern of activism for overdue and desperately needed changes for accessibility and inclusion. My plan is to lead by example and demonstrate how someone with a disability can effect positive change, not despite of their challenges but precisely because of them. I have suffered and therefore want to be part of what alleviates the suffering of others. Disability rights are civil rights and they are essential for our society. Our physical, virtual, and social spaces need to embrace universal design. I will fight in court for that.
    Frank and Patty Skerl Educational Scholarship for the Physically Disabled
    Winner
    After becoming physically disabled due to a genetic progressive condition, I was desperate to learn more about the history and current conditions of my newfound disabled community in the U.S. I leveraged my background as a clinical social worker and my connection to the disabled community to petition the editors of a forthcoming textbook for social work students about disability to hire me to write the chapter on U.S. Disability Policies. For several months I searched for all the information I could use to synthesize the history of major policies that affected disabled people in the U.S. from the Civil War to the present. Through my research and writing process, I recognized that large infringements on disabled peoples’ civil rights continue to persist today. I concluded my textbook chapter with suggestions for legislation needed to protect and uplift disabled people. I quickly realized that in the current structure, the burden is placed on the disabled individual to sue if they believe their civil rights have been violated. There is no enforcement mechanism to proactively discover and correct discriminatory practices of public businesses. I knew that most disabled people are not in a financial position to be able to hire counsel. Therefore, despite clear mandates for accessibility from the government, many companies large and small continue to be out of compliance. It is not until the cost of being inaccessible is more than the cost of accommodations and changes to ensure accessibility that many businesses will change their practices. I realized we need more lawyers with a focus on disability civil rights. In addition, these lawyers need to be open to pro bono or sliding-scale fees to make legal recourse accessible to more of this population. I’ve been successful as a clinical social worker helping people find their strengths for positive individual change. However, there are larger systemic changes that are needed for more disabled people to lead full lives with easy access to everything not-yet disabled people take for granted. In coming to this conclusion, a new desire bloomed – to be a lawyer and take on these cases. I intend to be one of the lawyers who takes on companies that violate the ADA and other disability civil rights laws. I was encouraged by loved ones to investigate the logistics of law school and the pros and cons of reentering student life in my mid-thirties. I recognized that it would be a bumpy road ahead, full of detours and potential dead ends, but at the finish line would be a reward worth all the struggle – being a voice for disabled people like myself with connections to the legal world, smashing through barriers literal and figurative. I have been a lifelong advocate for others, and now I have the opportunity and drive to be an advocate for myself and others like me who continue to be treated as less than human due to our disabilities. There have been too many times in my clinical practice where the answer has been “this client needs a lawyer” only to find no one interested and accessible to take the case. I want to be able to help demystify the legal process for others and encourage more lawyers to enter disability civil rights law. We need more not-yet disabled allies to understand that this fight is their fight too. No one is immune from illness, injury, or old age and at any time they or someone they love could become disabled. It shouldn’t have to happen to you for you to care about it and do something to make it right.
    Michael Rudometkin Memorial Scholarship
    As a clinical social worker and substance use disorder clinician for the past 10 years, I aspired to embody selflessness each day. I consistently charged low or no fees for therapy services to those in need as well as spent countless hours of research and advocacy for increased quality and quantity of social services in underserved areas. In a typical session with an individual, family, or group I created a holding space for pain and other unpleasant sensations and emotions. I encouraged folks to leave with me their stories of survival, to trust me with their truth, and inspire hope for something greater. For confidentiality reasons I can not share specific examples, however, in most of my prior positions, I routinely was the first person in my clients' entire lives to reflect their strengths, provide meaningful support, and facilitate healthy connections to resources. My focus has never been and will never be on accumulating riches for myself. Rather, I continue to strategize how I can best be of service to others. Sometimes this means quite literally meeting someone where they are at - be it a shelter, residential treatment program, sidewalk, or jail cell. After counseling, guiding, advocating for, and supporting the humanity and worth of thousands of people I am now pursuing a law degree to take my service to the next level. There were too many times in my practice where I'd reach a dead-end with my clients, exasperated having to throw my hands up and say "you need a lawyer." There are few outlets for pro bono or sliding-scale legal representation and information in our society. The law is seen as too complex for the average person to comprehend and too expensive for most to access. I intend to break down the barriers between those in need and the legal support they require. Specifically, I would like to focus on disability civil rights law as discrimination, inaccessibility, and exclusion persist. I learned quickly as a clinician that the burden is placed on the disabled person to sue if their rights have been violated as there is no enforcement mechanism for failure to provide accommodation. It is incredibly expensive to participate in the legal process and disabled people in particular are more likely to live at or below the poverty line due to policies that make it incredibly difficult to amass wealth. Therefore, disabled people have a more difficult time securing representation while the companies that perpetuate discrimination can easily mobilize a defense team. This and other inequities need to be challenged and stopped - and I believe I have the knowledge and dedication to be a part of the movement for change. I have used my education and experience to be at the table where important decisions are being made, whether that's by testifying at the state legislature or leading trainings at academic, governmental, and grassroots conferences. I continue to volunteer my time and expertise to change minds and inspire others to act - both supporting disabled people to become self-advocates as well as guiding well-meaning allies to challenge their assumptions about disability and provide meaningful support. I will be able to do this on a larger scale with a Juris Doctor degree and after being admitted to the Bar. Unfortunately, pursuing a JD is an expensive endeavor. I would use the funds from this scholarship to afford books and other materials to improve my learning and practice, which then would quickly empower me to be of higher services to others.
    Catrina Celestine Aquilino Memorial Scholarship
    After becoming disabled due to injuries caused by the genetic connective tissue disorder hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS), I was desperate to learn more about the disabled community. I leveraged my degrees in social work and public policy combined with my personal connection to the disabled community to petition the editors of a forthcoming textbook for social work students about disability to hire me to write the chapter on U.S. Disability Policies. For several months I worked to synthesize the history of major policies that affected disabled people in the U.S. from the Civil War to present. Through my research and writing process, I recognized that large barriers and infringements on disabled peoples’ civil rights continue to persist in this country and beyond. I quickly realized that in the current structure, the burden is placed on the disabled individual to sue if they believe their civil rights have been violated. There is no enforcement mechanism to proactively discover and correct discriminatory practices of public businesses. Therefore, despite clear mandates for accessibility from the government, many companies large and small continue to be out of compliance. It is not until the cost of being inaccessible is more than the cost of accommodations and changes to ensure accessibility that many businesses will change their practices. I realized we need more lawyers focused on disability civil rights - and ultimately that I want to be one of them. In one month I will start my first year of law school. I am not attracted to becoming a lawyer for financial riches, intangible outcomes have always motivated my actions. You can’t put a price on helping someone assert their dignity, tell their story, and effect systemic and long-lasting change to help all others that come after. I have been a lifelong advocate for others, and now I have the opportunity and drive to be an advocate for myself and others like me that continue to be treated as less than human due to our disabilities. There have been too many times in my clinical practice as a therapist where the answer has been “this client needs a lawyer” only to find no one interested and accessible to take the case. I want to be able to help demystify the legal process for others as well as encourage more lawyers to enter disability civil rights law and understand the obstacles that persist. As a social worker for the past ten years, I have been committed to social justice and championing the dignity and worth of every individual. As I have progressed in my clinical career, I have chosen to remain committed to serving low-income and otherwise stigmatized populations. I have testified in front of state legislative committees, submitted policy analyses to elected officials, and advocated as a community representative in litigation against corporations who poisoned local groundwater. I refuse to accept that only those with unlimited financial means are worthy of being heard when it comes to setting or changing policies and laws. I am aware that my status as a first-generation college graduate and the only person in my family to even consider law school puts me at a disadvantage to some of my future classmates. Nevertheless, I am very eager to continue my lifelong pattern of activism and advocacy for overdue and desperately needed changes. My plan is to lead by example and demonstrate how someone with a disability can effect positive change, not despite their challenges but precisely because of them. I have suffered and therefore want to be part of what alleviates the suffering of others.
    Barbara J. DeVaney Memorial Scholarship Fund
    I am a disabled person with a genetic connective tissue disorder that affects my mobility and general health. I often use mobility aids and have faced literal barriers regularly. I know what it is like to be excluded and discounted, not treated as a full person. This scholarship would be immensely helpful to me as I start my law school journey and continue as a first-generation college student in my family. Due to my disability, I have been unable to work consistently full-time (often denied the reasonable accommodations I needed and then not having the financial means to litigate access). I will become a lawyer no matter what, however, this scholarship would make it a bit easier to continue on this path. I deserve to have some traction beneath my wheels as I embark upon this physical and mental endeavor, one that I take on with the laser focus of helping others like myself lead full, integrated, and meaningful lives. My inspiration to pursue law school stemmed from experiences as a disabled person as well as seeing my community struggle to simply live their lives alongside the not-yet disabled. My hope is that a robust legal education and real-world experience will allow me to break down the barriers most disabled people encounter when seeking legal remedies. Additionally, I want to lobby legislators to enhance protections for disabled people and increase penalties for civil rights violations. We need a better enforcement mechanism when individuals and businesses do not follow laws that protect disabled people. Currently, the burden is on the disabled person to sue if their civil rights have been infringed. I envision a system where compliance mechanisms keep businesses in line. It is only when the cost of being inaccessible is higher than the cost of adapting a physical or electronic business to be accessible to all that business owners will decide to follow the law. I would like to be one of the lawyers that takes on companies that continue to ignore the ADA and other disability civil rights laws, creating the precedent needed to better the lives of disabled people throughout the country. I have attempted to be very cost-conscious when pursuing this dream. I am attending a public state university and qualify for reduced resident tuition. I have spent countless hours researching scholarships, grants, loans, and other options for funding. This scholarship would reduce my loan burden and allow me to become debt-free much faster after graduation. I also believe this money would allow me to network and connect with others in my field, as I will be under slightly less pressure to work overtime and exceed my mental and physical limits. I don't know many lawyers or professionals who have completed post-graduate work, partly due to being a first-gen student. In addition, due to the exorbitant expenses of being a disabled person in a country without universal health care, my financial resources have been consistently limited beyond what the not-yet disabled person could imagine. I know that with financial, emotional, and professional support I can accomplish my dreams and be a force for the progressive change needed both inside and outside the courtroom. However, I must acknowledge the extra burdens that I carry and be honest about the challenges that lie ahead. Winning the Barbara J. DeVaney Memorial Scholarship would make an immediate positive impact on my life and in time help support my work to improve the lives of countless others.
    Beyond The C.L.O.U.D Scholarship
    I'm Disabled, Not Disempowered My inspiration to go to law school stemmed from personal experiences as a disabled person as well as seeing my community struggle to simply live their lives alongside the not-yet disabled. I hope that with a robust legal education and professional experiences, I will become a force to help break down the barriers between most disabled people and legal remedies for when they have been wronged. Additionally, I want to be able to lobby legislators to enhance protections for disabled people and increase penalties for offenders. We need a better enforcement mechanism when individuals and businesses violate laws that protect disabled people. Currently, the burden is on the disabled person to sue if their civil rights have been violated. I envision a better system where there are compliance mechanisms to keep businesses in line. It is only when the cost of being inaccessible is higher than the cost of adapting a physical or electronic business to be accessible to all that business owners en mass will decide to follow the law. One very small example can be seen with closed captioning for in-flight entertainment. Several airlines are not currently in compliance with the required accessibility for media. Some have “sorry” messages on their websites, but that “sorry” does not help when a D/deaf or Hard of Hearing individual cannot access programming the same as their hearing seatmate. As the law stands, it will only be when disabled people sue the airlines that they will be forced to comply. I would like to be one of the lawyers that takes on companies that continue to ignore the Americans with Disabilities Act and other disability civil rights laws. I am a disabled person with a genetic connective tissue disorder that affects my mobility and general health. I often use mobility aids and have faced literal barriers on a regular basis. I know what it is like to be excluded and discounted, not treated as a full person. This scholarship would be immensely helpful to me as I start my law school journey. Due to my disability, I have been unable to work consistently full-time (often denied the reasonable accommodations needed and not having the financial means to fight). I will become a lawyer no matter what, however this scholarship would make it a bit easier to continue this path. I deserve to have some traction beneath my wheels as I embark upon this physical and mental endeavor, one that I take on with the laser focus of helping others like myself lead full, integrated, and meaningful lives.
    I Can Do Anything Scholarship
    I will be an advocate for universal accessible design that creates true inclusion and not only enforce existing statutes that protect disabled people, but also organize and activate communities to participate in their own liberation by changing laws to recognize and uphold the right to full participation in everyday life and punish those that seek to violate this essential freedom.
    Johnna's Legacy Memorial Scholarship
    After becoming disabled due to chronic illness, I was desperate to learn more about the history and current conditions of my newfound disabled community. I leveraged my background as a clinical social worker and my education (degrees in social work and public policy) combined with my personal connection to the disabled community to petition the editors of a forthcoming textbook for social work students about disability to hire me to write the chapter on U.S. Disability Policies. For several months I combed the internet and my local libraries for all the information I could use to synthesize the history of major policies that affected disabled people in the U.S. from the Civil War to present. Through my research and writing process I recognized that infringements on disabled peoples’ civil rights continue to persist in this country and beyond. I concluded my textbook chapter with suggestions for legislation needed to protect and uplift disabled people, call attention to the wrongs of today, and provide a road map for the necessary progressive change for true inclusivity and accessibility for all. I quickly realized that in the current structure, the burden is placed on the disabled individual to sue if they believe their civil rights have been violated. There is no enforcement mechanism to proactively discover and correct discriminatory practices of public businesses. I knew that most disabled people are not in a financial position to be able to hire counsel. Therefore, despite clear mandates for accessibility from the government, many companies large and small continue to be out of compliance. It is not until the cost of being inaccessible is more than the cost of accommodations and changes to ensure accessibility that many businesses will change their practices. I realized we need more lawyers with a focus in disability civil rights that are prepared to go up against violators. In addition, under the current structure, these lawyers need to be open to pro bono or at least reduced or sliding scale fees to make legal recourse accessible to more of this population. I believe I’ve been successful in my role as a clinical social worker, helping people find their own strengths and leverage self-efficacy for positive individual change. However, there are larger systemic changes that are needed for more disabled people to lead full lives with easy access to everything not-yet disabled people take for granted. In coming to this conclusion, a new desire bloomed – to be a lawyer and take on these cases. I am not attracted to becoming a lawyer for financial riches, it is intangible outcomes that have always motivated my actions. You can’t put a price on helping someone assert their dignity, tell their story, and effect systemic and long-lasting change to help all others that come after. I have been a lifelong advocate for others, and now I have the opportunity and drive to be an advocate for myself and others like me that continue to be treated as less than human due to our disabilities. I want to be able to help demystify the legal process for others as well as encourage more lawyers to enter disability civil rights law and understand the obstacles that persist. We need more not-yet disabled allies to understand that this fight is their fight too. No one is immune from illness, injury, or old age and at any time they or someone they love could become disabled. It shouldn’t have to happen to you for you to care about it and do something to make it right.
    Will Johnson Scholarship
    After becoming disabled due to injuries caused by the genetic connective tissue disorder hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS), I was desperate to learn more about the history and current conditions of my newfound disabled community. I leveraged my background as a clinical social worker and my education (degrees in social work and public policy) combined with my personal connection to the disabled community to petition the editors of a forthcoming textbook for social work students about disability to hire me to write the chapter on U.S. Disability Policies. For several months I combed the internet and my local libraries for all the information I could use to synthesize the history of major policies that affected disabled people in the U.S. from the Civil War to present. Through my research and writing process I recognized that infringements on disabled peoples’ civil rights continue to persist in this country and beyond. I concluded my textbook chapter with suggestions for legislation needed to protect and uplift disabled people, call attention to the wrongs of today, and provide a road map for the necessary progressive change for true inclusivity and accessibility for all. I quickly realized that in the current structure, the burden is placed on the disabled individual to sue if they believe their civil rights have been violated. There is no enforcement mechanism to proactively discover and correct discriminatory practices of public businesses. I knew that most disabled people are not in a financial position to be able to hire counsel. Therefore, despite clear mandates for accessibility from the government, many companies large and small continue to be out of compliance. It is not until the cost of being inaccessible is more than the cost of accommodations and changes to ensure accessibility that many businesses will change their practices. I realized we need more lawyers with a focus in disability civil rights that are prepared to go up against violators. In addition, under the current structure, these lawyers need to be open to pro bono or at least reduced or sliding scale fees to make legal recourse accessible to more of this population. I believe I’ve been successful in my role as a clinical social worker, helping people find their own strengths and leverage self-efficacy for positive individual change. However, there are larger systemic changes that are needed for more disabled people to lead full lives with easy access to everything not-yet disabled people take for granted. In coming to this conclusion, a new desire bloomed – to be a lawyer and take on these cases. I am not attracted to becoming a lawyer for financial riches, it is intangible outcomes that have always motivated my actions. You can’t put a price on helping someone assert their dignity, tell their story, and effect systemic and long-lasting change to help all others that come after. I have been a lifelong advocate for others, and now I have the opportunity and drive to be an advocate for myself and others like me that continue to be treated as less than human due to our disabilities. I want to be able to help demystify the legal process for others as well as encourage more lawyers to enter disability civil rights law and understand the obstacles that persist. We need more not-yet disabled allies to understand that this fight is their fight too. No one is immune from illness, injury, or old age and at any time they or someone they love could become disabled. It shouldn’t have to happen to you for you to care about it and do something to make it right.
    Justice Adolpho A. Birch Jr. Scholarship
    After becoming disabled due to injuries caused by the genetic connective tissue disorder hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS), I was desperate to learn more about the history and current conditions for my newfound disabled community in the U.S. I leveraged my background as a clinical social worker and my education (degrees in social work and public policy) combined with my personal connection to the disabled community to petition the editors of a forthcoming textbook for social work students about disability to hire me to write the chapter on U.S. Disability Policies. For several months I combed the internet and my local libraries for all the information I could use to synthesize the history of major policies that affected disabled people in the U.S. from the Civil War to present. Through my research and writing process I recognized that large barriers and infringements on disabled peoples’ civil rights continue to persist in this country and beyond. I concluded my textbook chapter with suggestions for legislation needed to protect and uplift disabled people, call attention to the wrongs of today, and provide a road map for the necessary progressive change for true inclusivity and accessibility for all. I quickly realized that in the current structure, the burden is placed on the disabled individual to sue if they believe their civil rights have been violated. There is no enforcement mechanism to proactively discover and correct discriminatory practices of public businesses. I knew that most disabled people are not in a financial position to be able to hire counsel. Therefore, despite clear mandates for accessibility from the government, many companies large and small continue to be out of compliance. It is not until the cost of being inaccessible is more than the cost of accommodations and changes to ensure accessibility that many businesses will change their practices. I realized we need more lawyers with a focus in disability civil rights that are prepared to go up against violators. In addition, under the current structure, these lawyers need to be open to pro bono or at least reduced or sliding scale fees to make legal recourse accessible to more of this population. I believe I’ve been successful in my role as a clinical social worker, helping people find their own strengths and leverage self-efficacy for positive individual change. However, there are larger systemic changes that are needed for more disabled people to lead full lives with easy access to everything not-yet disabled people take for granted. In coming to this conclusion, a new desire bloomed – to be a lawyer and take on these cases. I was encouraged by supportive people in my life to investigate the logistics of law school as well as the pros and cons of reentering student life in my mid-thirties. I soon recognized that it would be a bumpy road ahead, full of detours and potential dead ends, but at the finish line would be a reward worth all the struggle – being a voice for disabled people like myself with connections to the legal world, smashing through barriers literal and figurative. I am not attracted to becoming a lawyer for financial riches, it is intangible outcomes that have always motivated my actions. You can’t put a price on helping someone assert their dignity, tell their story, and effect systemic and long-lasting change to help all others that come after. I have been a lifelong advocate for others, and now I have the opportunity and drive to be an advocate for myself and others like me that continue to be treated as less than human due to our disabilities. There have been too many times in my clinical practice where the answer has been “this client needs a lawyer” only to find no one interested and accessible to take the case. I want to be able to help demystify the legal process for others as well as encourage more lawyers to enter disability civil rights law and understand the obstacles that persist. We need more not-yet disabled allies to understand that this fight is their fight too. No one is immune from illness, injury, or old age and at any time they or someone they love could become disabled. It shouldn’t have to happen to you for you to care about it and do something to make it right. The process of applying to law school has been arduous at times. I was shocked at the financial commitment to simply be eligible for admission. I recognize that the gatekeeping starts from day 1 on the road to becoming a lawyer with the implicit message that the under-resourced and unconnected need not apply. It also amazed me the extent to which potential merit scholarships were tied to performance on the LSAT and that a few points could be the difference between substantial debt and a full ride. My experience as a law school applicant (and now as an admitted student) has only confirmed what I already knew about the injustice and inequality in this world and reinforced my commitment to being an instrument of change. I know that it is from within the legal profession that I will be better positioned to advocate for more progressive policies to encourage interested folks from all backgrounds to enter the field and unlock the gate, to tear it down once and for all. Someone should not have to know a lawyer or come from a family of lawyers to be granted access. My intention as a law student is to continuously be a voice for those not present in abundance in the field. I've already informed my law school's leadership team of how the law school building is physically inaccessible for me to navigate independently from my electric wheelchair. I don't know if I would have had the courage before the application experience to confront this issue directly. I am dedicated to helping others but also recognize that it is okay to ask for help myself.
    Margot Pickering Aspiring Attorney Scholarship
    As a clinical social worker, I have dedicated my life to using my skills, power, and intellect to improve the lives of others. I have been humbled daily by the stories of others’ pain and despair, but also thrilled by positive outcomes and being a small part in others’ ability to overcome, prosper, and move forward in their lives. I wish I could say that all of my clients have benefitted from therapy and are thriving now, but that’s not the world we live in. Particularly as I have grown to specialize in treating and advocating for persons who use/have used illicit substances, I have had to compartmentalize my work and maintain strict boundaries as I watch individuals try and fail over and over again. What I have grown to realize over the years is that there are barriers larger than what I can assist someone to break through on an individual basis. By the time someone is in the chair opposite me in my therapy office, it can be too late. They’ve already been beaten down literally and figuratively and I have to be careful or I’ll cut myself on the shards of their broken life. I’ve grown tired of having to refer clients to lawyers, and learning how inaccessible effective counsel can be for someone losing everything. I know that with a law degree and after passing the AZ Bar Exam that I will finally be able to assist in circumstances where previously my mouth was duct taped shut and hands bound with zip ties, helpless to intervene as a mere civilian. I know it will take many years before I’m confident and efficient enough to advocate for clients on my own, but I do believe that my years as a clinician will serve me well in my next career. I see my desire to become a lawyer as a natural progression of my professional life, one in which I’m keenly interested in how systems work and where there is room for progressive change. As a social worker, I consistently have to put myself in someone else’s shoes, to understand their point of view, their hopes, fears, dreams, values, and most importantly – their capacity for change. I wish to combine the skills I already have with the robust legal scholarship and knowledge that ASU offers in order to be the most effective advocate for those in need. I moved to Arizona almost two years ago from New England because I could no longer tolerate the suffering and pain of a cold and freezing winter. I have a connective tissue disorder that causes muscle spasms and joint laxity and only intensifies my pain when the temperatures turn frigid. My partner and I have set roots in the Phoenix area and intend to spend the rest of our lives here. ASU’s School of Law is my only opportunity to achieve my goal of becoming a lawyer in this area. I desperately want to continue serving the people of Arizona, and in the metro Phoenix area specifically. I sincerely hope that my academic track record, successful completion of two master’s degrees in particular, is sufficient for the admissions team to see that I am well prepared for the rigor of law school. I know that I’m not the typical applicant, I didn’t know I wanted to be a lawyer when I completed undergrad, but I believe that my life experience makes me even more suited for law school and a legal career than others right out of university. I have been in the real world. I have maintained a professional customer-facing business and remain deeply committed to being an instrument for positive change in the lives of others. I find myself at a point where I need more knowledge and experience in matters of law and I know that ASU is well equipped to assist me in my journey. I am eager to put knowledge into practice and contribute to an intellectual atmosphere, to learn from professors and students alike, and to join a network of brilliant minds fighting to make this world better for Arizonians of all backgrounds. I have never been one to accept a policy simply because something has always been done a particular way. I fundamentally believe and strive to live by the principle that we need to understand our past, question our habits, and be open to new lines of thinking in order to continue to evolve as a society. I know that ASU’s School of Law is the place, the only place, I will be able to acquire the tools necessary to be part of that evolution. I became a social worker because I know what it is like to feel lost and alone, searching for a way out. From working through my own mental and physical challenges, I know that there is a path forward to be explored for each individual on this earth. My hope is that my clients, present and future, can see me as a reliable and consistent source of unconditional support. Legal knowledge is essential for many people to better their lives, and I believe my purpose at this stage of my life is to become a lawyer and increase accessibility to progress for all. Progress will look and sound different for different people, and I want to help others discover their path and have the force of law behind them.
    Jean Antoine Joas Scholarship
    After becoming disabled due to injuries caused by the genetic connective tissue disorder hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS), I was desperate to learn more about the history and current conditions for my newfound disabled community in the U.S. I leveraged my background as a clinical social worker and my education (degrees in social work and public policy) combined with my personal connection to the disabled community to petition the editors of a forthcoming textbook for social work students about disability to hire me to write the chapter on U.S. Disability Policies. For several months I combed the internet and my local libraries for all the information I could use to synthesize the history of major policies that affected disabled people in the U.S. from the Civil War to present. Through my research and writing process I recognized that large barriers and infringements on disabled peoples’ civil rights continue to persist in this country and beyond. I concluded my textbook chapter with suggestions for legislation needed to protect and uplift disabled people, call attention to the wrongs of today, and provide a road map for the necessary progressive change for true inclusivity and accessibility for all. I quickly realized that in the current structure, the burden is placed on the disabled individual to sue if they believe their civil rights have been violated. There is no enforcement mechanism to proactively discover and correct discriminatory practices of public businesses. I knew that most disabled people are not in a financial position to be able to hire counsel. Therefore, despite clear mandates for accessibility from the government, many companies large and small continue to be out of compliance. It is not until the cost of being inaccessible is more than the cost of accommodations and changes to ensure accessibility that many businesses will change their practices. I realized we need more lawyers with a focus in disability civil rights that are prepared to go up against violators. In addition, under the current structure, these lawyers need to be open to pro bono or at least reduced or sliding scale fees to make legal recourse accessible to more of this population. I believe I’ve been successful in my role as a clinical social worker, helping people find their own strengths and leverage self-efficacy for positive individual change. However, there are larger systemic changes that are needed for more disabled people to lead full lives with easy access to everything not-yet disabled people take for granted. In coming to this conclusion, a new desire bloomed – to be a lawyer and take on these cases. I have been a lifelong advocate for others, and now I have the opportunity and drive to be an advocate for myself and others like me that continue to be treated as less than human due to our disabilities. There have been too many times in my clinical practice where the answer has been “this client needs a lawyer” only to find no one interested and accessible to take the case. I want to be able to help demystify the legal process for others as well as encourage more lawyers to enter disability civil rights law and understand the obstacles that persist. We need more not-yet disabled allies to understand that this fight is their fight too. No one is immune from illness, injury, or old age and at any time they or someone they love could become disabled. It shouldn’t have to happen to you for you to care about it and do something to make it right.
    Albright, Carter, Campbell Ohana Scholarship for Academic Excellence
    After becoming disabled due to injuries caused by the genetic connective tissue disorder hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS), I was desperate to learn more about the history and current conditions for my newfound disabled community in the U.S. I leveraged my background as a clinical social worker and my education (degrees in social work and public policy) combined with my personal connection to the disabled community to petition the editors of a forthcoming textbook for social work students about disability to hire me to write the chapter on U.S. Disability Policies. For several months I combed the internet and my local libraries for all the information I could use to synthesize the history of major policies that affected disabled people in the U.S. from the Civil War to present. Through my research and writing process I recognized that large barriers and infringements on disabled peoples’ civil rights continue to persist in this country and beyond. I concluded my textbook chapter with suggestions for legislation needed to protect and uplift disabled people, call attention to the wrongs of today, and provide a road map for the necessary progressive change for true inclusivity and accessibility for all. I quickly realized that in the current structure, the burden is placed on the disabled individual to sue if they believe their civil rights have been violated. There is no enforcement mechanism to proactively discover and correct discriminatory practices of public businesses. I knew that most disabled people are not in a financial position to be able to hire counsel. Therefore, despite clear mandates for accessibility from the government, many companies large and small continue to be out of compliance. It is not until the cost of being inaccessible is more than the cost of accommodations and changes to ensure accessibility that many businesses will change their practices. I realized we need more lawyers with a focus in disability civil rights that are prepared to go up against violators. In addition, under the current structure, these lawyers need to be open to pro bono or at least reduced or sliding scale fees to make legal recourse accessible to more of this population. I believe I’ve been successful in my role as a clinical social worker, helping people find their own strengths and leverage self-efficacy for positive individual change. However, there are larger systemic changes that are needed for more disabled people to lead full lives with easy access to everything not-yet disabled people take for granted. In coming to this conclusion, a new desire bloomed – to be a lawyer and take on these cases. I am not attracted to becoming a lawyer for financial riches, it is intangible outcomes that have always motivated my actions. You can’t put a price on helping someone assert their dignity, tell their story, and effect systemic and long-lasting change to help all others that come after. I have been a lifelong advocate for others, and now I have the opportunity and drive to be an advocate for myself and others like me that continue to be treated as less than human due to our disabilities. There have been too many times in my clinical practice where the answer has been “this client needs a lawyer” only to find no one interested and accessible to take the case. I want to be able to help demystify the legal process for others as well as encourage more lawyers to enter disability civil rights law and understand the obstacles that persist.
    Ruthie Brown Scholarship
    I was fortunate as an undergraduate to have a full scholarship as a result of my high academic performance in high school. However, a Bachelor's degree was not sufficient for my career goals so I went back to school for a Master's degree in Social Work. At the time, I did not have a car and relied on public transportation, so I restricted my search for schools to ones in the city where I already lived. This pushed me towards more expensive schools. Even with a partial merit scholarship, I accumulated over six figures of student loan debt by the end of the program when the interest was compounded. For several years I have been on an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan via the federal government. Social workers, especially when still working towards independent licensure, do not earn a substantial wage. Despite a slim budget, I have watched my student loan debt continue to grow as my IDR payments do not even keep up with the interest rates. At times it has felt like an impossible task to pay off my loans. So some might think I'm being foolish going back to school for a second time, now to earn a JD and become a lawyer. However, I am now laser-focused on my career and how I can leverage my personal and professional experiences combined with a robust legal education to make a difference in this world. I have been much more financially conscious this time around, selecting a wonderful state school and waiting to apply until I was eligible for reduced tuition as a resident. I have also made it a mission to apply for any scholarships for which I am eligible. While I will initially be adding some debt as a result of the three-year JD program- I am encouraged by the opportunities for networking and on-the-job experience that will allow me to increase my earning potential after graduation. In addition, I have negotiated a higher salary in my current position as a clinical social worker so that I can save more money and thus not need extra funding for living expenses during the school years. I take responsibility for my student loan debt and fully intend to pay it off in my lifetime. I am grateful for opportunities such as income-driven repayment plans, but I am also keenly aware that paying the minimum forever will not get me closer to my goal of being debt-free. Instead, I have factored student loan debt into my monthly budget, and I continue to research the pros and cons of consolidation as well as transferring my loans to a private company. Should it make more financial sense in the long run, I would not hesitate to go private and renegotiate my high interest rate. Finally, I have thus far been ineligible for public service loan forgiveness as a social worker because for several years I have worked for agencies that were for-profit or did not otherwise fit the requirements of the program. While I disagree with the requirements for public service loan forgiveness (I believe it should be the type of work performed that determines eligibility, not the classification of the agency), I am aware of several opportunities as a lawyer that would both qualify for loan forgiveness after 10 years of service and allow me to practice the type of law of which I'm interested: disability civil rights law. I also remain open to more scholarships as a 2nd or 3rd-year student, as well as work study and/or paid internships to keep my new debt low.
    Growing with Gabby Scholarship
    I awoke in recovery after the 5-hour surgery in a hard cervical collar that would be my constant companion for the next six weeks. The pain at first was tolerable. But as the medication from surgery wore off and I was moved to a Med/Surg floor (one step below ICU) I experienced an agony that I previously believed was reserved for only the worst medical trauma cases. If I tried to utilize any of my back muscles, I was met with fire rippling from the base of my skull all the way to my tailbone. My brain was telling me something was horribly wrong, that I was being ripped apart and would not survive. I screamed. I cried until the skin around my eyes cracked from moisture and my puffy and red eyelids ached. My head was pounding. I couldn’t sleep because my brain kept yelling at me to stay awake and do something about this pain. I truly was unsure how I could go on. My husband came to visit in the morning. I sobbed to him, this was a mistake I shouldn’t have had surgery, something is wrong, oh please help me. He demanded to speak to the head nurse in charge, who to their credit did quickly appear and listened to our concerns. A few minutes later this nurse returned and informed me that I had not been given any pain medication during the night shift. The nurse asked me to explain why! I tried to choke out the words between sobs, that I didn’t know, that I had said repeatedly I was in pain, and that I thought I had been medicated. I was then informed that because I hadn’t asked for pain medication specifically, it had been withheld. The nurse on duty that night was “one of the stricter ones about opioids” and has her own policy not to administer (despite my surgeon’s order for opioid pain medication to be given every 4 hours for at least 3 days after surgery) unless the patient asks. I was assured that I would be properly medicated during the day, and that night shift would also be alerted to my wish to be medicated throughout the night. After five days of no sleep and no attention to hygiene, I was finally cleared to be discharged home. I required help with most tasks for several weeks. I used a walker to take small steps. I relied on others to feed and bathe me. Each day I got a little stronger, and with the help of physical and occupational therapy I have been able to regain most functions. This will be an ongoing process and I am committed to my recovery. However, I remain in widespread chronic pain and will continue to need assistive devices for mobility support. Despite my physical challenges this year, I decided to continue in my quest to go to law school. It is precisely because of my experiences as a chronic pain patient and a disabled person that I want to focus on health care and policy law. I am determined to learn the skills necessary to fight for people like myself who have been harmed by the medical industry. I feel my prior background as a clinical social worker and substance use disorder clinician combined with my personal experience as a patient will allow me to put a real face on these issues and push for the progressive change needed so that all people can have access to affordable and comprehensive health care that fits their individual needs.
    Charles Cheesman's Student Debt Reduction Scholarship
    My inspiration to go to law school stemmed from personal experiences as a disabled person as well as seeing my community struggle to simply live their lives alongside the not-yet disabled. My hope is that with a robust legal education and experience that I will become a force to help break down the barriers between most disabled people and legal remedies for when they have been wronged. Additionally, I want to be able to lobby legislators to enhance protections for disabled people and increase penalties for offenders. We need a better enforcement mechanism when individuals and businesses violate laws that protect disabled people. Currently, the burden is on the disabled person to sue if their civil rights have been violated. I envision a better system where there are compliance mechanisms to keep businesses in line. It is only when the cost of being inaccessible is higher than the cost of adapting a physical or electronic business to be accessible to all that business owners en mass will decide to follow the law. I am a disabled person with a genetic connective tissue disorder that affects my mobility and general health. I often use mobility aids and have faced literal barriers on a regular basis. I know what it is like to be excluded and discounted, not treated as a full person. This scholarship would be immensely helpful to me as I start my law school journey. Due to my disability, I have been unable to work consistently full-time (often denied the reasonable accommodations needed and not having the financial means to fight). I will become a lawyer no matter what, however this scholarship would make it a bit easier to continue this path. I deserve to have some traction beneath my wheels as I embark upon this physical and mental endeavor, one that I take on with the laser focus of helping others like myself lead full, integrated, and meaningful lives. I believe I’ve been successful in my role as a clinical social worker, helping people find their own strengths and leverage self-efficacy for positive individual change. However, there are larger systemic changes that are needed for more disabled people to lead full lives with easy access to everything not-yet disabled people take for granted. In coming to this conclusion, a new desire bloomed – to be a lawyer and take on these cases. I am not attracted to becoming a lawyer for financial riches, it is intangible outcomes that have always motivated my actions. You can’t put a price on helping someone assert their dignity, tell their story, and effect systemic and long-lasting change to help all others that come after. I have been a lifelong advocate for others, and now I have the opportunity and drive to be an advocate for myself and others like me that continue to be treated as less than human due to our disabilities. There have been too many times in my clinical practice where the answer has been “this client needs a lawyer” only to find no one interested and accessible to take the case. I want to be able to help demystify the legal process for others as well as encourage more lawyers to enter disability civil rights law and understand the obstacles that persist. We need more not-yet disabled allies to understand that this fight is their fight too. No one is immune from illness, injury, or old age and at any time they or someone they love could become disabled. It shouldn’t have to happen to you for you to care and do something to make it right.
    @frankadvice National Scholarship Month TikTok Scholarship
    @normandiealise National Scholarship Month TikTok Scholarship