The ACLU of Alaska announced James Flemings of Bethel and Valerie Ni hEideain of Wrangell as its 2016 Joan Hamilton Memorial Scholarship winners today. The scholarship provides financial support for students who are working towards a legal career advocating for the rights of Alaska Native and rural communities.

ACLU Selects James Flemings of Bethel and Valerie Ni hEideain of Wrangell as its 2016 Joan Hamilton Memorial Scholars

CONTACT: Joshua A. Decker,  ACLU of Alaska,
Anchorage, Alaska – The American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska selected two students, James Flemings of Bethel and Valerie Ni hEideain of Wrangell, as its 2016 Joan Hamilton Memorial Scholars. This annual scholarship, established by the ACLU of Alaska in the memory of its former board member Joan Hamilton, promotes and supports the education of Alaska students who wish to pursue a career related to the law, advocate for Alaska Native rights, and defend the constitutional rights and civil liberties of the peoples of rural Alaska. 
James is a senior at Bethel Regional High School where he serves as the Treasurer of the Student Council, facilitates physical fitness training and team-building activities for younger students through the school’s Before the Bell program, and helps bring rural villages together as a volunteer for the annual Camai Festival.
 “I hope to follow in Joan Hamilton’s footsteps and become a role model for rural Alaskan students,” he said. “Even though we live in an environment where the odds are stacked against us, I want to set an example for everyone in my community about the importance of aiming high.”
Valerie, a Master’s in Law student at the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, Scotland, earned a BLA from the University of Alaska Southeast – Ketchikan, collaborated with Tlingit and Haida Tribal Court to bring a program of restorative justice to Southeast Alaska, and served on the board of Raven’s Blanket, a nonprofit organization that promotes local Native artists.
 “My law-related degree will give me the breadth and depth of knowledge required to accurately and effectively address issues of discrimination against Alaska Native people and continue Joan Hamilton’s work,” she said.
“The ACLU of Alaska was very impressed with James Flemings and Valerie Ni hEideain,” said Joshua A. Decker, executive director of the ACLU of Alaska. “Against the backdrop of a number of competitive applicants, James and Valerie stood out. We are proud to help support both of their studies.”
More information about Joan Hamilton and the ACLU of Alaska’s Joan Hamilton Memorial Scholarship is on the ACLU of Alaska’s website at
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