Jackie Sandmeyer works full-time and goes to law school, dedicating most days to the LGBTQ community and constantly striving to find ways to give back.
“Whether that be offering up my time to work with LGBTQ people with complex safety and legal concerns, or advocating for increased services or better policy to serve that population,” Sandmeyer explained. “Being someone with no family or traditional support network, I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for community, so I try to give that back.”
Sandmeyer, a rising second-year, part-time Willamette Law student, was named one of the recipients of the Shepherd Legal Scholarship at the “A Class Act” benefit April 28. The scholarship is managed by OGALLA: The LGBT Bar Association of Oregon and awarded by the Bill and Ann Shepherd Legal Scholarship committee.
Oregon law students who make a commitment to advance the equal rights and justice for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender individuals are eligible for the scholarship. Other 2017 recipients included Demi Jacques and Hugo Gonzales Venegas, students from Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon. Sandmeyer (who prefers gender-neutral pronouns) said they didn’t expect to receive the scholarship.
“I think every time you are recognized in that way, it tends to come as a surprise,” Sandmeyer said. “Being someone who came from a background of homelessness because of coming out as LGBTQ, it meant a lot to me to have a moment to acknowledge how far I’ve come in moving toward my goals.”
Willamette alumna Cierra Brown JD’15 is co-chair of OGALLA and on the scholarship committee. She said Sandmeyer will be a role model for others and exemplifies what the committee looks for in Shepherd scholars.
“From the first line of Jackie’s personal statement, the committee had no doubt we were offering them the scholarship,” Brown said. “Jackie’s story of coming out and overcoming so much, paired with the drive and passion of what they hope to achieve is not only amazing, but absolutely inspiring.”
Sandmeyer works as the campus coordinator for the Oregon Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force. They provide training and Title IX and policy technical assistance to all higher education institutions in the state, clerking for firms on the side to gain additional legal experience.
After graduation in 2019, Sandmeyer hopes to practice civil law, specifically victim’s rights law focusing on civil remedies for crime victims and Title IX. They said their work is purposeful in promoting anti-violence and protections for LGBTQ people, while also amplifying the voices of those who have experienced violence.
“These types of scholarships are more than just acknowledging those on our campuses who are doing good work,” Sandmeyer said. “As a queer person of color who is also gender non-conforming, higher degrees, especially law degrees, are often seen as something unattainable. LGBTQ and students of color face barriers to being successful students that their peers never face.
“Scholarships like these make it possible for many of us to stay in school and create an environment where we can work to not only just graduate, but flourish as students.”
About the Bill and Ann Shepherd Legal Scholarship Fund
The Bill and Ann Shepherd Legal Scholarship Fund was the brainchild of the late Jeff Rose, Mr. Portland Leather 1993 and Susie Shepherd, International Ms. Leather 1989. As Rose prepared to step down from his title year in February 1994, he was determined to bequeath to the community a perpetual gift honoring the couple who had so deeply inspired him as a young gay activist, Bill and Ann Shepherd.
Bill and Ann Shepherd began a legacy of justice in 1972. In 1976, Bill founded the Portland Town Council Legal Resource Committee, forerunner of the Oregon Gay and Lesbian Law Association (OGALLA). That same year, Ann was appointed to a two-year term on then Gov. Straub’s Task Force on Sexual Preference. In 1977, with Chuck and Rita Knapp, they co-founded Parents of Gays, which later affiliated with the international organization Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, PFLAG.
Until his death in 1995, Bill provided low-cost legal counsel to same-sex couples who wanted to ensure their partners optimal decision making and inheritance rights. Ann “mothered” countless gays and lesbians rejected by their families and churches and worked with confused parents to heal the wounds caused by misinformation and judgmental attitudes. Ann and Bill fought every anti-gay ballot measure and candidate that crossed their path, and in 1985, the Shepherds received the first of many prestigious awards from the community, the Lucille Hart Award from the Right-to-Privacy PAC.
About Willamette University College of Law
Opened in 1883, Willamette University College of Law is the first law school in the Pacific Northwest. The college has a long tradition at the forefront of legal education and is committed to the advancement of knowledge through excellent teaching, scholarship and mentorship. Leading faculty, thriving externship and clinical law programs, ample practical skills courses and a proactive career placement office prepare Willamette law students for today's legal job market. According to statistics compiled by the American Bar Association, Willamette ranks first in the Pacific Northwest for job placement for full-time, long-term, JD-preferred/JD-required jobs for the class of 2014 and first in Oregon for the classes of 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. Located across the street from the state capitol complex and the Oregon Supreme Court, the college specializes in law and government, law and business, and dispute resolution.