The State Bar of Wisconsin recognized UW-Madison law student Crystal Stonewall as the 2021 Outstanding Public Interest Law Student of the Year.
“At just 23 years old, Crystal already sports a highly impressive CV with numerous examples of her sincere commitment to be a “change agent, an interpreter of the law, an advocate of legal rights, a representative of the ‘invisible,’ and a voice for the voiceless,” according to the State Bar of Wisconsin’s website.
The award honors current law students who demonstrate a commitment to public interest work, volunteerism or activism and helping others in their communities. One student is honored from UW Law School and one from Marquette Law School.
“I’m extremely honored to be recognized by the state of Wisconsin and distinctive professionals that really looked at my qualifications to see what I’ve done,” she said.
Last year, Stonewall served as a co-executive director for the Black Law Student Association at UW, and as a member of the University of Wisconsin Student Advisory Board for both the Dean of Students Office and the School of Education. In addition, she also collaborated with the University of Wisconsin Systems’ General Counsel on “Pass the Harasser” sexual misconduct policies and legislation last year.
“Since receiving the recognition, I received a fellowship through the University of Wisconsin System. I am now a law student ambassador,” she said.
The Public Interest Law Section highlighted Stonewall’s contributions to her campus community and hometown. Raised on the southside of Chicago, Stonewall attended Chicago International Charter School before earning her bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 2019. She is also certified to teach in Wisconsin and Illinois.
“I feel like although I’ve been in Madison since 2015, I’ve been more proactive in trying to stay connected to Chicago,” she said.
Stonewall explained that being a state away from Illinois has forced her to find creative ways to reach students. She also finds opportunities to give back to her community via programs like Chicago Scholars, LINK Unlimited Scholars and The Posse Foundation.
“I would say that my main motivator is to be an inspiration to others. I feel like a lot of the work I do is to inspire people whether you’re younger than me or older than me,” Stonewall said.
She is also deeply passionate about education. Stonewall would like to ensure that all students have access to adequate resources.
“I’m interested in advocating for students through the lens of Civil Rights,” she said.
This summer Stonewall interned at the Office for Civil Rights housed under the US Department of Education. The office works to ensure equal access to education and resolve discrimination complaints.
Stonewall plans to pursue further opportunities to advocate for students’ right to a quality education. However, Stonewall also acknowledges the challenges ahead of her and issues facing school systems across the nation.
“I think an important thing to do is to hear different perspectives on the issues, teachers and parents,” she said.