Shayla Mombeleur, a third-year law student at the University of Massachusetts School of Law, will receive the 2017 Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Scholarship, a $10,000 award from the Massachusetts Bar Association, on May 4.
A graduate of Bridgewater State University, Mombeleur was inducted into Phi Sigma alpha, the national political science honor society. It has long been her dream to attend law school with an aim to help the most vulnerable in society, having overcome challenges in her early life including financial insecurity and substance abuse in her family.
While some around her made unfortunate choices and wrong turns in life, Mombeleur kept moving forward. As an undergraduate student at Bridgewater State, she dedicated significant time to missionary efforts in Haiti, working to improve the lives of children at the H.I.S. Home for Children orphanage by providing them with vital everyday needs such as baby formula.
"These interactions honestly made me realize the opportunity I had in the United States-the opportunity to find my passion in life and to work hard in school so I could serve the same communities I grew up in," said Mombeleur. “My childhood memories are still shaken with my personal experiences, as the daughter of parents who struggled with addiction and the instability that comes with poverty.” Mombeleur said that motivates her to work in the legal field.
"As attorneys and members of communities, I think our duty is to constantly identify problems and work towards solutions,” she said. “My work in Haiti has made me committed to taking action to bring services to indigent populations and gave me the desire to be a voice for my community."
During her time at UMass Law, Mombeleur has served as a judicial intern for the Massachusetts District Court in both Taunton and Orleans and has also been an SJC Rule 3:03 Certified Student Attorney for the Bristol County District Attorney's Office.
Being a dedicated advocate for civil rights has always come natural to Mombeleur. Upon graduation from law school, she hopes to serve those same communities she grew up in as a staff attorney for the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) or undertake a legal career for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
In addition to winning the $10,000 scholarship, the Massachusetts Bar Association has invited Mombeleur to participate in the Leadership Academy of the MBA, a leadership program for lawyers interested in civic engagement and giving back to their communities.