Voices Blog Pt. II: What I Learned from CICS Wrightwood Still Applies to Me Today

Written by Crystal Stonewall
07 April 2021
Posted in Voices

What I Learned from CICS Wrightwood Still Applies to Me Today

I have now been at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School for over two years! As a native south side Chicago African-American woman, and CICS Wrightwood graduate, I have come a long way from home. 

Since I started law school in the fall of 2019, I’ve learned about myself and the legal profession. Although law school is unlike any other schooling I have experienced, my ease at transitioning to law school can be attributed to my experiences as a student at CICS Wrightwood. 

Chrystal Stonewall I felt slightly intimidated at first as I had limited exposure to the intricacies of law school.  One of my only references to how law school came from television and law school is much more than what is depicted on a television show.  Yes, there were challenges my first year, but I was motivated by my memories of Wrightwood; the teachers there  told me that I was destined for greatness and that any obstacle I faced could be defeated because I am resilient. That message guided me through my first year. 

Learning how to efficiently manage the academic commitments of law school was initially difficult. In law school, there is less feedback from professors, fewer opportunities to personally assess growth. My law school grades were based on a single final exam at the end of the semester. This pressure forced me to place a heightened emphasis on organization and time management as a first-year law student and I relied heavily on my planner. I was first introduced to using planners as an organization tool when CICS Wrightwood gave students planners. 

Years later, I still rely on planners to organize my entire life. I also rely heavily on the support of professors and other law school resources, attending office hours and law school-sponsored study groups. As a student at CICS Wrightwood, I had great relationships with my teachers; I recognized the value of getting to know my teachers and letting them get to know me. Some of my best memories from CICS Wrightwood are my relationships with teachers, so I let those positive moments encourage me to meet with my law school professors and form positive relationships with them.

CICS Wrightwood developed my ability to work well under pressure. The rigorous curriculum at CICS Wrightwood, combined with the teachers’ personal willingness to push students academically, created a rich environment for learning. As an elementary student, I always felt challenged academically. The transition to law school was also composed of new challenges and a different level of academic rigor, but I knew I would overcome those challenges due to my past experiences and success at CICS.

On my first day of law school, my Contract Law professor told my class “the first year of law school is a marathon, not a race.” This advice seemed straight-forwarded to me; in order for law students to not burn out with the rigor of law school, it’s essential for law students to pace themselves. Thanks to the skills I gained as a student at CICS Wrightwood, I was able to successfully complete my first year  of law school.

This is part two of a CICS  Voices Blog series on CICS Wrightwood alum, Crystal Stonewall, who graduated valedictorian from CICS Wrightwood in 2011. Crystal graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Spring 2019. She is currently a second year law student at The University of Wisconsin Law School and the State Bar of Wisconsin named her Outstanding Public Interest Law Student of the Year. 

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