In conjunction with our 60 Days of Scholars feature, we are taking a look at the different impact areas of our remarkable 2022 class of Tillman Scholars. Our scholar community has found their passions leading them to diverse fields of studies all with the same goal in mind, unite others and advance ideas that change the world. From business and STEM to education and public service, each week we will be highlighting our brand new scholars and how they plan to make their impact.
Our 2022 class of Tillman Scholars has our largest class to date pursuing an impact in law. With such a large amount this year, we have broken this round up into two parts. Enjoy part one below!
Erhan Bedestani, Catholic University of America
Ranger-qualified and motivated to continue his service, Erhan was selected for the Special Forces qualification course and earned his Green Beret in 2007. He soon served in Operation Enduring Freedom Trans-Shael in West Africa and later Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Erhan is now pursuing a law degree at the Columbus School of Law at the Catholic University of America. He is motivated to continue to serve, this time supporting the veteran and service member community with legal support as he seeks to expand his nonprofit Warrior Family Advocacy (WFA). WFA seeks to educate veterans and service members so they understand key aspects of family law and specifically how child custody determinations are made so as to ensure they have favorable outcomes in family court. Erhan saw firsthand veterans and service members suffering from a court system that presented veterans and service members significant obstacles to maintaining their parent-child relationship and was inspired to attend law school while on active duty to make a difference and effect legal and policy change.
Margo Darragh, Yale University
While her years as a Marine Corps officer shaped Margo into the person she is today, it was her family that taught her the true meaning of service. Throughout her childhood, Margo witnessed her parents perform constant and selfless community service to families in their neighborhood. She realized that the richest communities are not defined by high incomes and beautiful homes, but instead by sincere people performing quiet acts of genuine service for their neighbors. This truth became even more evident when Margo began to process the impact that the opioid epidemic had on her greater community of family and friends. After closely following attempts to hold various entities accountable for their roles in fueling the opioid crisis—and armed with first-hand knowledge of the manipulation, tragedy, and dishonesty that enabled America’s addiction to oxycontin—Margo was driven to leave the Marine Corps and pursue a career in the legal profession that will enable her to advocate for the American communities of the future.
Natasha DeLeon, Syracuse University
While serving in the Marine Corps, Natasha began volunteering in San Diego’s foster care system as a Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). This led her to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and work part-time at a group home for teen foster boys. Upon completion of her service, her passion for social work grew. Natasha earned a Master of Social Work in 2019, while she also interned as a therapist. During this time, Natasha lived in Togo while supporting her husband during his active duty Marine Corps career. While in West Africa, Natasha led physical self-defense courses for women in vulnerable positions and volunteered with non-profit organizations centered around eliminating gender-based violence. Following their tour in Togo, Natasha and her family moved to Colombia where she began working remotely as a paralegal for a private law firm. This is where Natasha began to connect the injustices in the legal and social work systems. From here, Natasha developed a passion for criminal defense and family law. She is pursuing a Juris Doctor degree so she can provide legal assistance and advocacy as an attorney.
Matthew Rohrback, Harvard Law School
Matt’s experiences working alongside American allies and partners overseas gave him a deeper appreciation for the important legal questions that frame American military power and institutions. Recognizing the essential and irreplaceable value of each individual member of the armed services, Matt came to better understand the importance of ensuring adequate legal and structural protections for those who have sworn an oath to support and defend the Constitution. In and outside of the Army, Matt’s overseas educational experiences in Taiwan, China, and Germany challenged and broadened his understanding of America’s role in the world, and the importance of maintaining the domestic institutions that safeguard the rule of law. These experiences inspired Matt to continue a career in public service while engaging meaningfully in his local community. As a future lawyer, Matt hopes to bring his perspective as a veteran to contribute a meaningful voice towards policy reform and advancing the common good.
Jennifer Scanlon, Gonzaga University
Jennifer is a Latina, U.S. Army veteran, military brat, Russian linguist, mother, breast cancer survivor, community college dean, and graduate of rigorous undergrad, graduate, and professional programs. After service Jennifer funded her own education and completed her bachelors at the University of Texas at Austin and masters at the University of Washington Evans School of Public Policy and Governance. Since leaving the military, Jennifer has been committed to public service, Her work includes initiating new success programs for veterans in community college and overseeing core student services as a dean. Jennifer is inspired to continue her life long love of learning and service, through the study of law. With a Juris Doctorate, she believes she will have the preparation and credentials that will help amplify her talents, skills, and passions allowing her to have an even greater impact as a future college president, policy maker, or legal advocate.
Daniel Walker, Harvard Law School
Walker started his career as an admissions officer and recruiter for the Air Force Academy. There, he was responsible for the counsel, mentorship, and intake of diverse students applying to USAFA from the Western United States and the Pacific territories. Walker is attending Harvard Law School as a Juris Doctor Candidate in the class of 2024. He entered law school to learn how to leverage capital and policy to directly support the advancement of historically disenfranchised communities. He aims to address economic deficiencies that stifle innovation, growth, and prosperity. While in school, he serves as a public defender with the Harvard Defenders, the External Vice President of the Black Law Students Association, a Harvard Center for Public Leadership Fellow, and as a Chayes International Public Service Fellow.
Nate Webster, Harvard Law School
After deployment, Nate joined Army Special Forces, the Green Berets. Their commitment to freeing the oppressed, encapsulated in the motto, De Oppresso Liber, called to him. As a Green Beret, Nate deployed to multiple African countries and the Middle East, working with local forces to strengthen their ability to remain free. Nate found that training individuals and organizations in human rights, tactics, medicine, and planning to be one of the most effective forms of empowerment. Following Nate’s many years of service abroad, a new desire to solve problems domestically emerged. In the same spirit that motivated Nate to train, teach and advocate for others abroad, Nate wishes to tackle the disparities in our judicial system. This new mission led him to pursue a J.D. and work to use the law as a force of equality for others. In his new path as an attorney, Nate looks to fight for others, challenge the status quo, advocate for just policies, and continue the work towards a more perfect union.