Former Scholarship Recipient Gives Back Through Sanford Heisler Public Interest Fellowship


The Justice & Diversity Center’s Bay Area Minority Law Student Scholarship Program was established in 1998 to reaffirm a commitment to diversity in legal education and the legal profession.

Most scholarships involve a three-year commitment to qualified students at $10,000 a year.

Since the program was established, more than 1.7 million dollars in scholarships have been awarded to 93 students.

Allyssa Villanueva

Allyssa Villanueva

Former scholarship recipient Allyssa Villanueva earned a J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in May 2016. We spoke with Villanueva to see what she is up to now:

“I was selected as the 3rd annual Sanford Heisler Kimpel Public Interest Diversity Fellow for the California Employment Lawyers Association (CELA). I began my first fellowship placement at the end of August at the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center (LAS-ELC) in San Francisco. LAS-ELC just celebrated the 100 year anniversary of its public interest legal services. At LAS-ELC, I support litigation in various divisions of the office including race equality, disability rights, and wage protection. I am also participating in new impact litigation cases that will address the intersections of criminal justice and employment. After completion of six months at the LAS-ELC, I will transfer to a firm in the CELA network for the remainder of the Fellowship.

Through the Fellowship, I am connected to the state’s largest plaintiff-side employment bar. CELA hosted its annual conference the end of September in Orange County to bring together this robust community of practitioners. The conference functioned as an information exchange on best practices, strategies, and insight on all aspects of employment law practice. I had the opportunity to receive mentorship by CELA members and staff as well the two previous Sanford Heisler Fellows.

Through CELA’s resources, network, and innovation, I will receive the best training and guidance possible to propel my career. I have already begun to give back as an alumni mentor to UC Hastings students and organizations including the Employment and Labor Law Students Association and the Black Law Students Association. I hope to continue to encourage nontraditional and underrepresented students to participate in labor and employment experiential learning and to consider a career in this field.

Aside from my fellowship work, I continue to support the Afrikan Black Coalition in their Black Community Programs (BCP) unit. The BCP unit is the newest division of the coalition that will offer direct services to the local community including political education and emergency preparedness. The coalition’s work is even more critical in the wake of the U.S. presidential election and the alarming rates of anti-Black racism, violence, and disenfranchisement rampant in the country.”

For more information about the Bay Area Minority Law Student Scholarship Program, or former recipients, visit