By Rob Abruzzese
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The National Association of Women Judges (NAWJ), District 2 got some help from the local New York chapter when it gave out scholarships to a pair of law school students during a reception for the awardees at the Brooklyn Bar Association in Brooklyn Heights on Thursday.
The Access to Justice Scholarships, which have been renamed for the late Chief Judge Judith Kaye, were given out to Ellie Miske, a second-year student at University of Connecticut School of Law, and Astrid Quinones, a second-year student at Syracuse University School of Law.
“Every year, NAWJ awards an Access to Justice Scholarship,” said Hon. Cheryl J. Gonzales, NAWJ District 2 director. “This year we had two because we had such outstanding applications.”
The NAWJ, District 2 typically only gives out one $500 scholarship per year, but the scholarship chairs explained that this year’s two recipients were both such outstanding candidates that it decided to reach out to the local chapter for help in awarding a second scholarship.
“We had so many outstanding applications that it was very difficult to narrow it down to just one,” said Hon. Robin Sheares, co-chair of the NAWJ scholarship committee. “[Hon. Leslie Stroth] was adamant that we had to give out at least two scholarships, so we reached out to Judge Kathy King, who, as president of the New York chapter of NAWJ, was very generous in helping us to get the additional scholarship money.”
Miske said that she had never thought about going to law school until after her junior year as an undergraduate, and admitted that she had never even met a lawyer up to that point. She said that it was her work with rape and domestic violence victims that led her to this career path.
“I really appreciate this,” Miske said. “Not only because coming to law school was something I never thought was possible — I'd never met a lawyer before enrolling in law school — but to be in this room of women judges, so many role models, is a wonderful thing.”
Stroth said that Quinones’ application brought tears to her eyes and that ultimately it would have been very tough to choose just one applicant.
“My mom was a domestic violence survivor, so when I was young, I realized that this was something that I wanted to do,” Quinones said. “Between undergrad school and college, I took a gap year and I volunteered at a domestic violence shelter in Los Angeles. I knew that was the population that I wanted to serve, I just didn't know how I wanted to serve it.”
Both recipients of the scholarships were encouraged to look up the award’s namesake. They were given the homework assignment of reading up on Kaye’s legacy and were told by the judges in attendance to live up to that legacy as best they could.
The event also included an introduction of the newest judges who have been appointed to the bench in Brooklyn. There were seven new judges in attendance, and King took the opportunity to talk a bit about the NAWJ’s mentorship program.
“The difficult part, whether you're appointed or elected, is to accomplish the task of being appointed or elected,” King said. “The challenging part is serving on the bench.
I call it living life in the bubble, because you now transition in a role where you sit on high and make decisions on others. There are so many rules about who you can talk to and when you can speak to people. It is important that you have mentors. That is what this organization would like to be to you.”