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.
This is part two of our highlight for our 2022 class of Tillman Scholars who are pursuing careers in law. Check out their individual impacts below:
Ashleigh Wootton, University of New Mexico
Adversity is something Ashleigh is all too familiar with, yet not fearful of. Subjected to poverty, abuse, neglect, homelessness, and mental illness of a caregiver as a child, Ashleigh now dedicates every ounce of energy to giving back to the community. Prior to graduating summa cum laude with her master’s from ASU in 2015, Ashleigh conducted research on the correlation between Battered Child Syndrome and juvenile parricide. Ashleigh has since spent the last six years working directly with incarcerated youth, child victims of abuse and neglect, and families in need. Ashleigh has always dreamed of becoming an attorney, as it is an avenue to give a voice to those who have been silenced. While fully investing herself in public service, Ashleigh observed a significant need for advocacy in her state and felt compelled to make a bigger impact in the community, especially the children. As before, Ashleigh will be the first in her immediate and extended family bloodline to receive a graduate degree. Her personal goal is to not only give back to the community, but to provide a voice and invoke a change in the lives of those susceptible to adversity, as she once was.
Desaree Edwards, Wesleyan University
The challenges Desaree and the other female crew-members faced during the integration motivated her to separate from the navy and pursue advocacy from a different perspective. Desaree is a prospective Neuroscience major at Wesleyan University set on a career in the law field. Since beginning school, she has managed three fundraisers for child advocacy organizations and works as a peer health advocate. She believes the best avenues for advocacy are addressing the system itself rather than individual issues. Her ultimate goal is to work to stop sex trafficking in the U.S. by developing community outreach programs to reduce the human trafficking risk in vulnerable communities and rooting out supply chains that prey on those communities. Ultimately, she plans to work in a program that provides legal representation and rehabilitation for survivors of sex trafficking.
Alexander “Gee Gee” Greene, George Washington University
After growing up as one of six children to a single mother in several low-income neighborhoods throughout Columbia, SC, Gee Gee decided to attend the U.S. Naval Academy where he could play Division I football and prepare to serve his country. Following graduation, he leveraged his passion for mentoring by serving as a football coach at the Naval Academy’s Preparatory School. From 2013 to 2016, Gee Gee led sailors on two separate deployments to the Middle East onboard the USS Gettysburg and USS Oak Hill. These experiences furthered his passion to help and serve others. As a young Division Officer, he enjoyed bringing together diverse sailors to accomplish one mission. Realizing the importance and impact of building meaningful relationships, Gee Gee transitioned from the surface warfare community to the human resources community in 2017. He is currently pursuing a law degree, aiming to provide legal support to underserved communities and improve the diversity of National Football League executives.
Kate Kozain, University of North Carolina
Kate’s Army sponsored service trip to Burundi and her deployment to Afghanistan were eye-opening experiences that exposed her to the complexities and prevalence of gender and sexual violence globally. Her experiences overseas influenced her career change to pursuing a proactive career in combating sexual and domestic violence here in the United States. While serving, Kate volunteered as a Victim Advocate for the Army’s Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention Program. She served in the position since 2017 and advocated for survivors of sexual harassment and assault. Kate left active-duty to pursue her law degree at the University of North Carolina School of Law. She aspires to become a criminal prosecutor for a District Attorney’s Office or for the Department of Justice. Kate’s ultimate goal is to bring justice to perpetrators of domestic and sexual violence and to help shift our culture surrounding these issues.
Nicole Leon, University of California – Berkeley
Nicole grew up on the south side of Chicago and was raised by her Mexican father and Honduran mother. After witnessing the struggles her parents faced as immigrants, Nicole determined herself to be the first person in her family to pursue a college degree. As a Latina who understood how theatrical spaces had historically excluded people of color, Nicole explored theater from an academic lens as a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow researching plays written by Latina playwrights who had re-imagined the theatrical canon and created a space for themselves within it. Along with her upbringing, Nicole’s theatrical background pointed to law as being the ideal avenue to enact change via a deep understanding of social apparatuses, the humans within them, and the cultures they create. Theater fueled her passions and skills for empathy, storytelling, and discourse, all of which are paralleled in law. With her legal education, Nicole hopes to impact the immigration and criminal justice system, and advocate for communities of color.
Marklin Nixon, University of Oregon
Trusted for his legal acumen, Marklin was selected to advocate as the Marine Corps representative at employment termination hearings on cases ranging from gun trafficking, drug abuse, domestic violence, and military specific offenses involving Marine Corps recruiters across the Western Recruiting Region. Seeing how his actions in the legal system could affect people for the better irrevocably changed Marklin’s perspective on his future aspirations. He began taking evening college courses to one day be a voice litigating for positive change like the attorneys he worked alongside. After a decade of service, Marklin is the first one in his family to obtain a bachelor’s degree and he is looking to earn a law degree so he can have a better platform to assist disadvantaged and troubled youth as a juvenile public defender. Marklin plans to use his experience as a mentor in the service and his own time in the juvenile court process to be a voice of compassion for children underrepresented in an overwhelmed judicial system.
Bill Rielly, Syracuse University
While working at Apple, Bill started volunteering in California state prisons and found the incarcerated men he worked with wanted to be accountable for their actions and create a positive future. He discovered immense untapped potential among the incarcerated men and was inspired to leave his job at Apple and focus full time on reform efforts in the criminal legal and parole system. Bill intends to change the parole and probation laws across the country to create pathways of redemption for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people so they can leverage their talents, achieve their full potential, and positively impact their communities. He intends to lead this innovation and create a better system through legal advocacy, changing the public’s perception of the issues, and enlisting advocates inside and outside the current system. The outcomes Bill foresees are better, safer communities; more highly qualified employees; and a criminal legal system of accountability and redemption.