Texas Tech University

Summer Public Interest Award

2019 Summer Public Interest Award Recipients

The Public Interest Award helped me tremendously through my summer internship. I was able to do something that I came to love, while having a way to keep the lights on. I will forever be thankful for the opportunity it provided to allow me to find my “why” again, and I look forward to the day that I can contribute to the award of another student.

Niya Gross,
Candidate, Doctor of Jurisprudence, Class of 2025
2023 Public Interest Internship: Lubbock County District Attorney's Office

The Public Interest Award supports summer fellowships for Texas Tech University Law School students interested in working in public interest law. Interested students apply in the spring semester for an award to do public interest legal work in the summer following their first or second year of law school.

Students in the first-year class raise the funds for the Public Interest Awards through the annual Public Interest Award Auction. Local attorneys, local businesses, law professors and staff, and law students donate items to be part of the live or silent auctions.

Being a recipient of a Public Interest Award is competitive. The Public Interest Award Committee selects the recipients in April. Applications are scored based on students' commitment to public interest, as demonstrated by a personal statement detailing how they've advanced the public interest in law school and beyond; financial need; and how greatly the type of internship they've acquired serves the public interest.

The biggest and most important lesson I learned in my summer internship was just how important and necessary public interest work is. Those who seek legal advice are typically experiencing the most trying situations of their lives. Attorneys have the ability to help and resolve these dilemmas, but indigence should not bar someone from receiving that kind of resolution. I truly believe that all lawyers, in all variances of practice, have a duty to help those who cannot help themselves. They have a duty to represent the indigent with the same amount of care and diligence used to represent a paying client.

Andrew Gendi,
Candidate, Doctor of Jurisprudence, Class of 2021
2019 Public Interest Internship: Capital Public Defender's Office

To apply:

Public Interest Awards Application


Regardless of whether or not our clients had committed the crimes that they were accused of, they were people first, and deserved the right to equal representation. Furthermore, many of our clients had been disadvantaged in their lives and were experiencing so much more than just the legal troubles that we were helping them to fight. Being able to help lighten the load for our clients brought a sense of fulfillment and purpose to my summer experience. What I did mattered, and it showed.

Sidney Wiltshire,
Candidate, Doctor of Jurisprudence, Class of 2020
2019 Public Interest Internships: Washtenaw County Office of Public Defenders

Frequently Asked Questions:

Who can apply for a Public Interest Award?

Any current Texas Tech law student who will be a Texas Tech law student in the next academic year may apply. 3Ls graduating in May are not eligible, as they will no longer be a law student when the work will be performed. Students planning to transfer are not eligible for the award.

What qualifies as public interest work for the award?

Public interest law includes working for individuals, groups, and social interests that are traditionally underserved or have barriers to equal access to justice. Public interest law seeks to promote social justice through the empowerment of people and communities.

It encompasses both policy and direct representation legal work. It may include prosecutor or public defender offices, military judge advocates general, judicial clerkships, and governmental offices that directly serve individuals with challenges to access to justice.

The work must be primarily legal in nature and supervised by a licensed attorney. Fellowship applicants must articulate in their application materials how the proposed work is in the public interest.

Can I change internship locations after I have been awarded an award?

You must ask for approval of a change in internship locations. Contact Professor Brie Sherwin if this occurs.

How many hours of public interest work must an awardee complete?

It varies. Students may split summers between a public interest position and another position, but the amount of time spent at the public interest position may influence the amount of funds granted to the awardee. Students must indicate in their applications if they are splitting their summer and, if they are, must indicate how much time will be spent at the public interest internship.

How much is a PILS award?

Amounts vary. Factors to be considered include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The student's previous commitment to public interest
  • How strongly the organization's mission serves the public interest
  • Length of the public interest internship
  • Financial need of the student
  • Cost of living in the location of the internship

Can I earn academic credit for my public interest internship?


After I've been granted a public interest award, are there any other requirements?

Students must complete a one-page essay reflecting on their experiences in the public interest internship, what they learned, and how/why it was a valuable experience.

Essays are due to Professor Brie Sherwin at the start of the fall semester. The essays may be used to show donors the importance of their donations and to illustrate the importance of public interest work to future students. Excerpts of the essays may be used in print or electronic advertising. This year, we will ask our winners for permission to put together a series of short video clips of their reflections on the program.

What is the overall time frame to apply and perform the work if I am granted an award?

  • Tuesday, March 19: Online application opens.
  • Friday, April 12: Online applications due.
  • Mid-April: Award winners are announced. Fellows are provided an award letter.
  • Mid-May: Awards are distributed.
  • May-August: Awardees complete their summer internships.
  • September 1: Reflection essays are due.

How can I put together the strongest public interest award application possible?

  • Description of the work you intend to do. Demonstrate in your application that you have an understanding of the goals and parameters of the work you intend to perform. Make sure to state clearly how the work you will be doing fits within the definition of public interest law.
  • Personal statement and past involvement in public interest work. Demonstrate in your application your commitment to working for the public interest, looking back at past experiences during and before law school. Explain the personal connection that drives you to help underserved communities, share a compelling story from your involvement in pro bono work, or describe a public interest initiative you led as an undergraduate. If necessary, offer an explanation of the factors that have prevented you from pursuing public service activities in law school.

I began to look at these defendants, these “criminals,” not as those with whom I had nothing in common, but as men and women with which I had far, far more similarities than I had differences. There were consistent accounts from the defendants or their attorneys about the circumstances that surrounded their lives and criminality. Almost without exception, I could pluck myself out of the life that has largely been granted to me without merit, place it instead in the life of each defendant, and see myself standing on the blue tape that held the place where each of them learned their fate during sentencing.

Aaron Wesson,
Candidate, Doctor of Jurisprudence, Class of 2021
2019 Public Interest Internship: 282nd District Court – Dallas County

Previous Award Recipients


  • Noah Andel: 68th Civil District Court, Dallas County
  • James Ashmore: Potter County District Attorney's Office

  • Justice Barkman: Federal Public Defender, Northern District of Texas

  • Haley Bray: First Court of Appeals, Harris County

  • Cat Clopton: Texas Appleseed-Fair Financial Services

  • Nataliya Dudar: Lubbock Private Defender's Office

  • Samantha Escalon: 398th District Court, Hidalgo County

  • Arvin Farangi: Harris County District Attorney's Office

  • Pamela Gandy: Bexar County Public Defender's Office

  • Abigail Goodman: Denton County District Attorney's Office

  • David Grimson: Texas Attorney General's Office

  • Sarah Kannel: Lubbock County District Attorney's Office

  • Maralicia Martinez: Texas Indigent Defense Commission

  • Shayna Oaks: Legal Aid Society of Lubbock

  • Joshua Owens: Federal Public Defender, Northern District of Texas

  • Lauren Pedde: Harris County District Attorney's Office

  • Kate Pennington: Office of the Colorado state Public Defender

  • Princess Rodarte: Office of Child Representation, Travis County

  • Madeline Royal: 48th District Court, Tarrant County

  • Madeline Spjut: Harris County District Attorney's Office

  • Samantha Tweet: Earth Law Center

  • Malik Williams: Legal Aid Society

  • Craig Woody: United States District Court


  • Jose Castaneda Gonzalez: Nacogdoches County Attorney's Office 
  • Haley Hickey: Bexar County Public Defender's Office
  • Lissette Moreno: Judicial Intern for United States District Courts for the Northern District of Texas
  • Megan Parry: Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid
  • Rachel Porter: Ninth Judicial District Attorney's Office
  • Princess Rodarte: Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program – Legal Aid of Northwest Texas
  • Lily Talamantes: Judicial Intern for Judge William Moody (34th Judicial District Court)
  • Keenan White: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Committee


  • Noora Bayrami: Department of Justice, Torts Divisions, Office of Vaccine Litigation
  • Jessica Bebawi: 380th District Court
  • Gabrielle Bechyne: Disability Rights Texas
  • Ashtyn Davis: Dallas County Public Defender
  • Andrew Gendi: Capital Public Defender's Office
  • Hailey Hanners: Office of the Attorney General of Texas
  • Darris Hawks: New Mexico Public Defender's Office
  • Tessa Meredith: Dallas County District Attorney
  • Paula Millan: Fiscalia General de la Nacion Sede Antiguo DAS (Colombia)
  • Jakob Reynolds: Federal Public Defender's Office, Northern District of Texas
  • Michael Samaniego: U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas – El Paso
  • Alexandra Sterken: U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Texas
  • Lauren Trevino: Office of the Criminal District Attorney
  • Taylor Walls: Texas Department of Criminal Justice – State Counsel for Offenders
  • Aaron Wesson: 282nd District Court – Dallas County
  • Sidney Wiltshire: Washtenaw County Office of Public Defenders


  • Tashika Curlee: Federal Public Defenders Office for the Northern District of Texas
  • Jay'Neisha Davis: Lubbock County District Attorney's Office & Catholic Charity of Lubbock
  • Tracie Dionne: District Attorney's Office for the 33rd and 424th Judicial Districts
  • Hailey Hanners: Texas Advocacy Project
  • Scott Keffer: Texas Supreme Court & U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas
  • Skyler Parks: Texas RioGrande Legal Aid
  • Cole Payne: United States Department of Agriculture—Office of the General Counsel
  • Joseph Reynolds: United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Texas
  • Alana Rosen: 282nd District Court in Dallas County