2 UNH Law Students Earn Prestigious National Service Fellowships
Second-year University of New Hampshire School of Law students Lina Shayo and Scott Whitaker are part of a competitive group of students in the nation’s top health and human service schools who have been named Schweitzer Fellows.
The fellowships, which are given through The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship, aim to develop leaders in service in the spirit of the Nobel Peace Prize winner and physician of the same name. Schweitzer Fellows partner with community-based organizations to identify an unmet need, then design yearlong service projects and implement them in their communities.
"Each year, I am amazed at the powerful service Schweitzer Fellows provide to the community," says Professor Mitchell Simon, who coordinates the Schweitzer Fellowship program at UNH Law. "The program also allows law students to gain relevant experience outside the classroom, which has long been a part of the UNH law tradition."
Lina, who plans to practice immigration law after graduating, will focus on improving access to health care for recent African immigrants by informing them of their right to an interpreter.
“People aren’t taking advantage of the interpreter services, or they don’t know that they can ask for one, or ask for another interpreter,” she says, adding that female patients might not feel comfortable if they are assigned to a male interpreter.
Lina, who calls herself a recent immigrant, was born in Kenya and moved to the United States 10 years ago. “I’m lucky that it wasn’t such a big transition for me,” she says. “But for older immigrants and especially for people from refugee countries, the culture is so different. I was seeing that in my community.”
She has been working with a group of health practitioners and state leaders to create a pamphlet for immigrant patients that will explain the benefits of using an interpreter, as well as spelling out patients’ rights. This fall, Lina will work with the New Hampshire group New American Africans to host workshops and classes for recent immigrants on the topic.
“They don’t feel empowered,” Lina says. “Coming from a different culture, the way you interact with a doctor is very different.”
Scott’s project will take him back to his roots, in New Hampshire’s mountainous and rural North Country. He plans to serve as a mock trial coach for a high school in the economically disadvantaged region.
Mock trial is “fun, there’s no pressure,” – a good way to introduce teens to the law, he says, and perhaps to encourage them to pursue a legal career and return home to practice. He’s noticed the lack of attorneys in the region, and he’s heard from lawyers that “there’s a great need for younger blood in the North Country.”
Scott, who says he always wanted to be a trial lawyer, was able to participate in a mock trial team as a teen, and it made a difference for him. “I was fortunate to have a teacher who incorporated a mock trial team for the high school, but when he left, the team dissolved,” he says. He wants to return to his school, Groveton High, and set up a sustainable program that will continue long after he graduates from UNH Law.
“When I participated in mock trial, there was a difference between towns that had money and those that didn’t,” he says. “Those students had more access to lawyers, better supplies, whereas with us it was really just our teacher, that’s all we had. If I can go up there and help and incorporate resources from UNH Law and get local attorneys involved, we can create a more vibrant program in the North Country.”
Scott, a member of the New Hampshire Army National Guard who has served in Iraq, hopes to work for the NH Public Defender after graduation, preferably in the North Country.