Crystal Stonewall, a Chicago Southside native, Chicago Public School (CPS) graduate and current lawyer, recognized at an early age that Chicago was often characterized as a tale of two cities. She noticed the educational, economical, political, criminal, and legal disparities that existed for many residents simply because of where they lived; but she was committed to make a change.
Crystal told us that her strength, determination, and empathy were cultivated in her by growing up on the Southside of Chicago and cemented in her by her family ties. She told us that during her high school years, she realized that inclusion could drastically impact change, and that’s when she realized that in order to be the change she wanted to see, she needed to place herself in positions where she would become a change agent. Crystal told us that going to a diverse CPS high school really impacted her in a positive way and helped her to develop her strong sense of advocacy.
At Chicago High School of Agricultural Sciences (CHSAS), Crystal was an active student. She was a member of the National Honor Society and student government. Her passion for serving and representing others continued when she severed on the Inaugural Chicago public schools CEO Student Advisory Council and the Chicago Public Library Teen Advisory Board where she advocated for student rights, and worked to make the Chicago Public libraries more attractive to teenagers. In 2015, she graduated valedictorian from Chicago High School of Agricultural Sciences, and immediately began her undergraduate studies at University Wisconsin Madison (UW-Madison).
At UW-Madison, Crystal public service ambitions continued. She served as a member of the University of Wisconsin Student Advisory Board for the Dean of Students Office and the School of Education. Serving on these committees gave Crystal the opportunity to work collaboratively with top level university officials and diverse groups of students. These opportunities provided her the platform and resources to advocate for students, especially those who felt under-represented and voiceless. Crystal was also a member of the Black Student Union, and is a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) sorority, a sorority created by Black women to promote a sense of community and set a standard of quality philanthropic work in Black communities.
Although Crystal majored in Education in her undergraduate studies, she explored the possibility of law school for her advanced degree. And after completing the LSAC Pre-Law Undergraduate Scholars Program hosted at UW-Madison, where she took law school classes and got a chance to explore different careers in the legal field, Crystal’s interest in law school and becoming a lawyer was solidified.
After graduating in 2019 with a Bachelors in Education from UW-Madison, Crystal returned to the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Law School to pursue her juris doctorate (JD). During her time in law school, Crystal remained active on campus. She was a member of the Black Law Student Association where she served on the executive board helping to improve the law school experience for Black students on campus. Additionally, she was selected as a member of the competitive and prestigious Wisconsin Law Review. During her tenure on the Wisconsin Law Review, Crystal served as an Associate, Executive Board member, and Co-Symposium Editor. Some of her highlights included, citation checking, writing legal pieces/notes or comments, and planning and facilitating the Law Review’s Symposium on Native Law (the restatement of the law of Native Americans).
Crystal’s professional career has already included several significant opportunities. She served as an intern for the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, where she collaborated with the Program Legal Group and worked on issues with Title IX and Title VI Acts which cover sexual misconduct, as well as race and disability discrimination. Crystal said that she loved working with the political appointees, being a changemaker in education policies, and watching systematic changes coming to fruition as the Biden admin took over. Additionally, she worked as a Law Clerk for University of Wisconsin Systems Office of General Counsel. Although she began this internship in 2020 when the pandemic started, Crystal said she received the opportunity to work on great legal cases that impacted all of the UW universities in Wisconsin on different topics like employment law, public law, Americans with disability, and Title IX. For example, she assisted with writing a memo of the legality of wearing masks. All of her internship experiences peaked her interest in higher education law and has given her a leg up in her career.
After graduating from UW-Madison’s Law School in 2022, Crystal became an attorney in UW-Madison’s Office of Legal Affairs. In this role she covers student affairs issues where she advises the university on topics like FERPA, which deals with student privacy, the Clery Act, which deals with campus safety, and Title IX. She also works as an attorney dealing with student life matters, for example academic and non-academic actions and consequences. Additionally, she helps the university with Public Record Law by advising the public records custodian on matters related to requests for university records.
Although Crystal just began working in June, she loves her job and has a good work/life balance. Outside of being a lawyer, Crystal really enjoys shopping, watching reality television, and cooking. Her advice for anyone entering the legal field is to just do it! “Don’t be fearful and don’t let doubt persuade you especially if you are passionate. Don’t be intimidated by what you think law school or being a lawyer is, try it out and see where it takes you.”
We at the Wentcher Foundation are extremely proud of Attorney Crystal Stonewall, and we are excited to see her journey moving forward!