Brandeis Law student Mashayla Hays continues path of public service with year-long fellowship

After she graduates from the Brandeis School of Law next month, Mashayla Hays will head to Pittsburgh, where she will begin a year-long fellowship with reproductive rights organization If/When/How.

"If/When/How is a national nonprofit that trains, networks, and mobilizes law students and legal professionals to work within and beyond the legal system to champion reproductive justice," states its website. 

As part of the fellowship, Hays will work with two organizations: New Voices Pittsburgh and Women's Law Project. With New Voices Pittsburgh, which promotes health for black women and girls, Hays will work on community-based programming in a grassroots setting. With Women's Law Project, a public interest law center dedicated to the rights of women and girls, she will be involved in lobbying and writing appellate briefs.

"I'm excited," Hays says. "I definitely feel like it'll be a learning experience."

For Hays, the fellowship is a chance to continue on her path of public service. 

"Public service has always been a huge component of my life," she says. "Helping people is always what I've wanted to do."

In her law school career, Hays performed more than 250 hours of public service, far surpassing the 30 hours the Brandeis School of Law requires for graduation. This commitment earned her the law school's 2018 Samuel L. Greenebaum Public Service Award, presented to the student with the most public service hours.

She has done public service work for Louisville's Legal Aid Society, Jefferson County Teen Court, the Central High School Partnership Street Law and Marshall Brennan programs and Wayside Christian Mission. She also helped at an expungement clinic hosted by a local law firm and community organizations. She also completed a trip to Belize in 2018 as part of the University of Louisville's International Service Learning Program.

The public service focus at the Brandeis School of Law helped draw Hays here, but she had another connection: as a student of Louisville's Central High School and its Law and Government Magnet Program, Hays was able to build a relationship with the law school before she even entered undergrad, thanks to the Central High School Partnership. The partnership encourages diversity in the legal profession by offering enrichment opportunities to Central students and having law students teach legal issues and critical legal skills to the high schoolers.

"When I came to Brandeis, I knew everybody, so I stayed," she says. "It all started with Central."

As a Brandeis student, Hays was able to go back to Central, this time as an instructor in the Street Law and Marshall Brennan programs, which focus on legal issues, critical thinking skills and civil liberties. 

"Brandeis cared about me from the beginning," she says. "It's amazing to see how my circle has fulfilled itself, from being a high school student at Central High School with a dream to now, finishing up my last year of law school. It's been amazing."