Student Organizations

3rd & 4th Year Scholars

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Nicole León

Nicole León has been working in the field of victim advocacy since 2008. She has experience in Child Advocacy Centers, State Attorney’s Offices, and community domestic violence agencies. Nicole currently serves as the Director of Denver’s Sexual Assault Interagency Council (SAIC). She coordinates the work of the general council as well as its subcommittees, including Denver’s Sexual Assault Response Team. Nicole has experience conducting trainings on LGBTI inclusion, sexual assault response, campus sexual assault considerations, and the impact of domestic violence on children. She is passionate about dismantling deeply held biases that perpetuate systemic oppression, particularly within the realm of violence against women.


Melissa McCoy

Melissa is a student in the Part-Time Professional Program at Denver Law while working at the Region 8 office of the U.S. EPA where, pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act, she reviews and comments on other federal agencies' Environmental Impact Statements. Prior to joining Region 8, she was an Environmental Program Manager for the Association of Clean Water Administrators and a Science and Technology Policy Fellow in the U.S. EPA's Office of Water in Washington, DC. Before these jobs, she was a post-doctoral research associate at the University of Colorado's Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. Melissa earned her Ph.D. in Molecular Microbiology from Tufts University in Boston, MA. She is excited to be given the opportunity to earn a J.D. and thereby improve her ability to protect our embattled environment and all who depend on it. In her free time, Melissa enjoys hiking, playing the french horn in Denver-area orchestras and caring for her beloved cats.


Mekayla Schock

Mekayla Schock was born and raised in the Denver area. She attended Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington and received a B.A. in Spanish Literature. After graduating college, Mekayla moved to El Paso, Texas and spent several years working at a shelter on the U.S. - Mexico border for families seeking asylum. She then worked with a non-profit that worked to combat human trafficking in the border area. Through experiences working with people going through various immigration processes, and as well as experiences with human-trafficking survivors testifying in court, Mekayla became interested in becoming a lawyer. A couple years ago, Mekayla moved back to Colorado and worked as a case manager for Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. She hopes to use her social services experience in the field of law to advocate for those who are underrepresented and sometimes misunderstood by the legal system. In her free time, Mekayla enjoys getting outside, reading, and cooking.


Melissa Sumner

Melissa is from Long Island, NY. She graduated from SUNY New Paltz with a degree in Psychobiology. During her senior year at SUNY New Paltz she was accepted as a New York City Teaching Fellow and began teaching in the South Bronx while concurrently earning a Master’s Degree in Urban Education. Melissa taught students with severe emotional disturbance for the NYC Department of Education for 5 years before moving to Colorado. She has been working for Aurora Public Schools for 7 years as a special education teacher and a special education instructional coach working with students with mild/moderate disabilities and their teachers. The whole of Melissa’s work has led her to want to advocate for students with disabilities beyond the scope of a classroom. Melissa is grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the Professional JD Part-Time program and honored to have been awarded the Chancellor’s Scholarship; both of these amazing opportunities afford her the ability to continue to spend quality time with her husband, Nathan, and two boys, Oliver and Charlie, and to work in public education while earning her JD. After law school, Melissa hopes to go into education law to effect positive change for all students in our public education system.


Rachael Willihnganz

Rachael is a Denver local and a graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder, where she studied Political Science, International Affairs, and Spanish. Rachael has worked to increase youth voter turnout as a voter registrant for New Era Colorado, served as a Public Interest fellow for immigrant rights organization Intercambio Uniting Communities, and expanded access to the ballot and civic engagement as a member of the League of Women Voters’ Vote411 and social policy teams. Rachael was a Restorative Justice facilitator at CU Boulder’s Office of Student Conflict for two years and recently managed a state House of Representatives campaign. Prior to attending law school, Rachael was a Legislative Aide at the Colorado General Assembly, where she passionately worked on criminal justice reform, affordable housing, and public education legislation, and supported her community by providing resource assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rachael is very grateful to the Chancellor’s Scholarship for allowing her to continue living in beautiful Colorado near her family, and to take advantage of all the opportunities the Sturm College of Law has to offer. She is interested in exploring civil rights, employment, and poverty law during her time at DU, with the ultimate goal of using her legal experience to continue working in public policy. 


Allyson Beyer

Allyson was born and raised in Denver and is excited to be back in Colorado. After graduating from Emory University in 2017, she moved to Washington, DC. In DC, Allyson worked in case management and policy research positions focusing on issues related to social services programs and urban poverty. She is looking forward to using her law degree and her background in policy and case management to work with individuals and communities on problems surrounding inequality. Allyson is grateful to be a Chancellor’s Scholar and to be part of the Sturm College of Law community.


Anna Goebel

Anna Goebel graduated from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA. While at Puget Sound, Anna worked for various legal aid organizations including the public defender’s office in Brooklyn, NY and with a college-in-prison program at the Washington Corrections Center for Women. After graduating, Anna was an investigator with the Arapahoe County office of the Colorado State Public Defenders. These experiences have furthered Anna’s commitment to equity and the fundamental rights of every individual. In her free time, Anna likes to garden, ski, and spend time in Colorado’s glorious mountains. Anna is honored to be a part of the Chancellor’s Scholars program and is grateful for the opportunity to learn alongside such remarkable individuals committed to a better world.


Tessa Stackow

Tessa Stackow was raised in northern Idaho and graduated from Hampshire College in 2017. During her time as an undergraduate, she was engaged in a variety of activities focused on improving mental health in her community, including providing residential counseling to youth with complex trauma and creating a peer support group for students to facilitate mental health topics on campus. Tessa went on to serve with City Year AmeriCorps in Boston, supporting an underserved elementary school through literacy, attendance, and behavior coaching; she was also selected to develop a new after-school tutoring and enrichment program which was inclusive of the school’s large population of English Language Learners. After completing her service term, she found her passion for homelessness services, providing case management and crisis intervention for homeless women in need of permanent supportive care. During her time in Denver she took on many roles, including providing academic skills coaching to students with learning disabilities; fundraising for the ACLU; and providing emergency case management to high-risk homeless clients during the COVID-19 crisis. Tessa remains passionate about housing policy and homelessness, as well as elder and disability policy.


Adam Estacio

Adam Minoru Estacio was born and raised in Denver and attended UCLA and CU Boulder. After graduating with a degree in Political Science, Adam spent a few years working as a Legislative Aide and Campaign Manager for members of the Colorado State Senate. While working in the Colorado Legislature, Adam co-founded the Coalition for an Inclusive Colorado, an organization dedicated to fighting racial and religious discrimination in his home state. In 2016, Adam moved to New Zealand to develop a sustainability program for Garage Project Brewery, the fastest growing company in New Zealand according to Deloitte's Top 50. He later expanded his sustainability consulting business to other New Zealand businesses, helping them build a culture of sustainability and reduce their environmental impacts. In addition to consulting, Adam partnered with the Red Cross to support former refugees adjusting to their new life in New Zealand. Adam's desire to enhance societal systems and fight for injustices on behalf of marginalized people drew him back to the United States. Prior to law school, he worked as a manager for a Colorado Congressional campaign and worked as a Chief Operating Officer for a digital political consulting firm. On his free time, Adam likes to snowboard and play guitar. 


Mercedes Rodriguez Martel

As a delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Mercedes led humanitarian field operations in the north West Bank in Israel/Palestine, the jungles of the Bajo Cauca and Putumayo regions in Colombia, and led detention operations in Afghanistan, in facilities at Bagram Airfield.  In these roles, she was a practitioner of International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law. Engaging with armed groups and armed forces on all sides of the conflict, she protected civilians by documenting alleged violations of the laws of armed conflict and of occupation, and verified the conditions of detention and treatment of detainees in prisons and interrogation centers.  Prior to her work with the ICRC, she organized protection for at-risk human rights activists at Peace Brigades International and the World Organization Against Torture.


Kate Berry

Kate earned a B.S. in Community and Nonprofit Leadership and Psychology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where she developed an interest in criminal justice reform. Born and raised in Denver, Kate moved back to Colorado after graduating and began working in the Appellate Division of the Colorado State Public Defenders Office. While at the Appellate Division, Kate found her passion for restorative justice. Along with several other Public Defenders, Kate co-facilitated restorative justice circles with formerly incarcerated individuals in a community corrections facility. Through these circles, Kate learned a tremendous amount about connection, relationships, empathy, and the unrelenting difficulties individuals face from a conviction. Kate believes restorative justice can be a way of life and a powerful and promising avenue for addressing issues in the criminal legal system and in society. She hopes to implement restorative practices into the criminal legal system and advocate for system change that centers harm done, the impacted relationships, and healing. In between working at the Appellate Division and law school, Kate developed a skill for planning last-minute camping trips, spent lots of time playing with the family puppy, and explored Colorado. In her free time, Kate likes to bike, hike, and explore Denver’s craft breweries.


Ellen Orear

Ellen Orear is from Colorado Springs and attended the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, where she received her bachelor's degrees in Sociology and Criminal Justice. After graduating college, Ellen worked as a victim advocate for the 4th Judicial District in their Special Victims Unit (SVU), assisting victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse. She provided information about the criminal justice system, discussed available resources, and accompanied the victims to meetings and court hearings. Ellen then worked for the Colorado Springs Police Department as a victim advocate. As a first responder, she would meet with victims at the hospital or the crime scene, discuss safety-planning, and accompany them during detective interviews and medical examinations. During her four years as an advocate, she became fascinated with the criminal justice system and finally decided to pursue a law degree. Ellen is incredibly grateful to be attending law school so close to home and she is deeply humbled to have received the Chancellor's Scholarship. She hopes to put her law degree to good use helping victims within the legal system.


Kayla Choun

Kayla grew up in Lakewood and Littleton, Colorado. She attended Lake Forest College and majored in Economics and Politics. For two years, Kayla interned at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) in the Chicago Region’s Consumer Protection Division. This position allowed for Kayla to learn about discriminatory practices in the banking sector, thus raising her awareness for the need for greater affordable housing. In the summer of 2016, Kayla and 30 other teammates advocated and fundraised for affordable housing while biking across the United States with the advocacy non-profit Bike-and-Build. Both Kayla’s semester at the University of Botswana and her volunteer experience at the Chicago PanAfrican Association influenced her interest in international development. From 2016 to 2018, Kayla served as a Peace Corps Economic Development Volunteer in Benin, West Africa. Here, Kayla partnered with a local NGO that promoted women’s and children’s rights. Following the Peace Corps, she completed a master’s degree in Human Rights and Politics at the London School of Economics. Kayla is excited to be back in her home state and to serve her local community. She is interested in international human rights, abolition, and affordable housing. Outside of school, she loves to walk around and explore new places. Last summer, Kayla through-hiked 2,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), and she is eager to do more through-hikes in the future.

Sturm College of Law
University of Denver
2255 E. Evans Avenue
Denver, CO 80208