2020 Alaska Curiosity Scholarship Winner
We are excited to announce the winner of this year’s Alaska Curiosity Scholarship: Aaron Druyvestein!
Aaron’s dedication to advocacy and public service shined throughout his essay and video. They both demonstrated Aaron’s passion for his community, the Alaska legal system, and helping those in need.
Join us in congratulating Aaron! We are proud to help a young member of the Juneau community continue his dreams to pursue a legal career in family law.
Here are a few words Aaron had to say about receiving the scholarship:
I am so appreciative of winning this scholarship. It’s no secret that graduate school can be expensive, so any assistance in meeting these financial obligations really means so much to me. In receiving this scholarship money, I can better put my mind towards performing well while in class and on my final exams.
I’m currently pursuing my law degree with the intention of entering into family law practice after graduation. Prior to entering law school, I was employed at a juvenile treatment center working with at-risk children and young adults throughout the State of Alaska. I am so grateful to have been a part of this experience, not only because it helped me develop into the person I am today, but also because it led me to realize that a career in law is what I want in life.
Ultimately, I aspire to return to Alaska so that I can continue assisting those who are in need of help. I hope to use the skills I am learning in school so that I can become a better advocate for the needs of at-risk children and young adults. Thank you again for this opportunity!
Finally, thank you to all our applicants. Please check back to apply again next year.
Watch Aaron’s Winning Video Below:
For the past four years in the State of Alaska, I was employed at a juvenile behavioral health treatment center working with at-risk children ages five through twenty-one. Among other challenges, the residents served at the agency suffer from a host of issues to include experiences of early-life trauma and neglect, a history of prevalent substance abuse, or developmental and physical disabilities, all of which severely impact a child’s chance to have a successful life into adulthood. The work was often challenging but the benefits from the job always seemed to outweigh the drawbacks. Through the hundreds of severely emotionally disturbed children our agency had served over the years, one case stands out in particular to me. His story helps explain my motivation for attending law school.
Suffering from severe intellectual disabilities and a childhood full of traumatic events, this young man required serious one-on-one attention while at our facility. His disabilities, although not completely debilitating, were significant and would seriously hamper his ability for sound decision making for the rest of his life. Accordingly, his cognitive defects often lead to his involvement in serious altercations with others which ultimately resulted in his deep embroilment in the juvenile criminal justice system. As he entered adulthood, however, our focus changed. His lengthy criminal record along with an ongoing legal guardianship case and his rapidly upcoming discharge date from treatment compelled us to work more closely with components of the criminal justice system and the Alaska Court System as a whole.
Having worked with this young man for several months before, I had built a strong relationship with him and so I was tasked with making sure there was clear coordination between our agency and the representatives at the court system. For the next several months, I spent many close hours with this individual as we worked to navigate through this considerable transition period in his life. As time wore on, we carefully helped him to apply for Social Security benefits, assisted the Office of Public Advocacy appointed Court Visitor as they conducted their investigation, provided information needed for various cognitive evaluations, attended his many permanency and adjudication hearings, and advocated for any other needs that came up throughout the proceedings. And to the best of my limited ability, I did what I could to support the legal team.
As time wore on, however, things began to fester. Deadlines needed extensions, progress stagnated and frustrations quickly rose. Upon his discharge, this young man aged-out of our agency without a permanent legal guardian and with little indication as to how his criminal charges would conclude. The team had run out of time to prepare the young man. Without any guidance, this young man quickly fell into a cycle of alcoholism, adverse personal relationships, and severe financial distress. Although this experience left me feeling somewhat pessimistic about a future legal career, I also used this opportunity to think critically about what went wrong. I’ve since concluded that in part, my own shortcomings may have aided in this young man’s ill fate.
By virtue of proximity, I witnessed the enormous undertaking that court representatives working in the juvenile court system manage on a daily basis. Interviews had to be conducted, documents from various agencies retrieved and court requests communicated to the appropriate entities. Attorneys working on his case were tremendously skillful orators, always articulate and straight to the point. The confidence in their voice while speaking to the presiding judge was undeniably alluring. Without even knowing this young man for very long, it became immediately clear the weight of authority his attorneys had over his proceedings. This realization had a big impression on me.
It’s a little secret that we all live in a fast-paced world, but it wasn’t until this experience that I realized that the law – if done carefully – can have a lasting impact on the lives of the people around you and more broadly, the community that you live in. My unfamiliarity with the legal system and the impacts that unfamiliarity had were among the biggest challenges I faced. Today, being unfamiliar with the law means being unfamiliar with a major part of modern life: A part of life that can help determine a person’s chances for success or for failure. Attorneys practicing law today have this influence to improve their surroundings. Understanding this, I know the skills I will practice during my time in law school will help me become a better communicator which in turn will improve my effectiveness to help others as I aim towards a career of public service.
Ultimately, my experience with the young man has given me better insight into the juvenile behavioral health field within the State of Alaska, an area of great interest to me following my eventual completion of law school. My exposure in law school will afford me the opportunity to further advance the skills that I needed in order to help this young man. The law as a service-focused profession coincides with my long-term, professional goal to provide advocacy for at-risk children.
I have seen first-hand the impact that one could have in my community if they were to have a Juris Doctor degree. To help defend the rights of an individual while also helping the community one lives in are hugely enticing responsibilities to me but they are responsibilities that cannot be completed without a formal, legal education. I hope that one day I may use the skills I will learn in law school to better help individuals similar to this young man.