There is nothing like a $15,000 fellowship award to make a law student’s day. This year we are happy to announce in today’s press release not one, but two winners for the 2009 LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell Connected Fellowship Awards. Established through an alliance with the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA), the $15,000 Fellowships celebrate the launch of the MCCA community on Martindale-Hubbell Connected, and honor third-year law students who have demonstrated academic excellence, leadership, community service and commitment to advancing diversity in the legal profession. This year’s recipients are Michelle A. McLeod, the University of Maryland School of Law, and Andrew C. Montoya, Florida Coastal School of Law.
A J.D. candidate at the University of Maryland Law School, Michelle McLeod spent most of her formative years within Maryland’s foster care system. She never let the difficulties of life get her down, instead, she used personal challenges to propel herself forward. Living on her own since the age of 16, Michelle worked full-time and attended five high schools. While peers played Play Station or hung out, she dedicated herself to learning by reading the newspaper everyday, watching CNN to keep on top of current events, spending time at the library, and studying to graduate high school. Michelle graduated from high school with honors and attended East Carolina University where she graduated magna cum laude in 2004 with a degree in journalism.
At this point in her life she decided to work directly with others to make an impact. Taking a job as a Residential Counselor at Boys Hope Girls Hope, she mentored at-risk youth, before taking a job as a Playroom Coordinator for terminally ill children and their families at Ronald McDonald House. Seeing how working with kids made a difference, she decided to go to law school with the goal of one day using her degree to help families. As an attorney and hopefully one day as a family court judge, Michelle plans to focus on protecting the rights and interests of children. She is expected to graduate in May of 2010, and currently ranks in the top 20 percent of her class.
Andrew Montoya is a man with a mission. He sees that despite the progress this country has made over the past fifty years in remedying racial and sexual discrimination, disability discrimination continues to fly under the radar. Raised in a traditional Mexican household where his aunt and grandparents had physical and mental disabilities, Andrew saw first-hand the need people with disabilities have for advocacy.
As a J.D. candidate at the Florida Coastal School of Law, he currently ranks in the top 18 percent of his class, and he already knows what he wants to do after graduation. Andrew began working for a grassroots disability rights organization called the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC), after receiving his Bachelor’s degree from Colorado State University at Pueblo in May of 2005. Upon graduation from law school, Andrew will continue his work in public interest advocacy, providing legal services to CCDC and changing the world one case at a time.