California Western School of Law students Ana Raya, Taylor McElroy, Paulina Reyes, and a fourth student who prefers to remain anonymous have received the prestigious SOAR for Justice Scholarship. The scholarship recognizes law students who are survivors of domestic violence or committed to using their law degrees to help victims of abuse with their legal needs. These four students will receive $500 and join an inaugural class of 12 other law students enrolled at seven other California law schools.
SOAR for Justice is dedicated to giving survivors of abuse a strong voice for change by financially supporting California law students and bar applicants directly impacted by domestic violence. The only organization of its kind, it was founded and directed by public interest attorney and San Diego native, Dovie Yoana King, who escaped a 10-year abusive marriage.
“I am deeply proud of Paulina Reyes, Ana Raya, Taylor McElroy and the anonymous scholarship recipient from CWSL who have demonstrated a passion for social justice,” says King. “Through their public interest endeavors, they are affirming women’s dignity and agency over their lives and bodies.”
Paulina Reyes is a third-year law student. She currently serves as co-president of the Immigration Law Society and treasurer for La Raza Law Students Association at California Western. Reyes advocates on behalf of victims of domestic violence, labor trafficking, and violent crimes while volunteering at immigrants' rights organizations.
"I assist victims of domestic violence who are seeking legal protection through a restraining order, child custody order, or by seeking immigration status," says Reyes. Her clients are women who often feel voiceless because they lack legal immigration status.
Ana Raya is currently a second-year law student. She is involved in the Pro Bono Honors Society, National Lawyers Guild, American Constitution Society, Public Interest Law Foundation, and La Raza Law Student Association at California Western. As a first-generation U.S. citizen, high school graduate, college graduate and law school student, Raya has a strong desire to help marginalized people to properly navigate through the justice system. She has realized her commitment to survivors of abuse and immigrant victims of violent crimes as a volunteer at nonprofit organizations. Raya assisted a Guatemalan woman, who was victimized by gangs and witnessed her son's murder, apply for asylum.
Taylor McElroy is also a second-year law student. She is active in the LGBTQ community, serving as the Diversity Officer for the American Constitution Society at California Western and as a board member of the Queer Alliance at her undergraduate college. As a JusticeCorps member, McElroy volunteered at a reproductive rights organization. She also volunteered at the San Francisco Superior Court assisting victims of domestic abuse with a myriad of legal issues.
“I have made it my career’s mission to help others who lack resources," says McElroy. She understands the importance of using her law degree to assist vulnerable people who are unable to afford an attorney.
A fourth law student has courageously shared her story of surviving intimate partner abuse, but prefers to remain anonymous due to safety concerns. Her decision to attend law school was greatly motivated by a passion to improve the lives of others.
SOAR for Justice is dedicated to helping survivors of abuse rise for justice. The organization works to expand resources available to survivors of abuse by encouraging future lawyers to choose rewarding careers in domestic violence advocacy and law reform; financially support California law students and bar applicants directly impacted by domestic violence through the inaugural SOAR for Justice Scholarship; educate the community about the dangers of domestic violence and the failings of the legal system; and provide a platform for survivors and their children to have a stronger voice for change.