NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Dr. Joyce Johnston, director of Stephen F. Austin State University’s Pre-Law Academy, is one of two recipients of the Texas American Board of Trial Advocates 2018 Champion of Civil Justice Award.
Johnston received the award for her work with SFA’s Pre-Law Academy, an innovative weeklong summer program that introduces high school students to the exciting opportunities associated with a career in law.
During the academy, students interact with federal and state judges, participate in a mock trial competition, examine a simulated crime scene, meet law school admissions officers and more.
Johnston said she is humbled and honored to receive the award, and she hopes it shines light on the summer program, particularly further attracting individuals within the legal profession to share their time and expertise with participants.
State District Judge Kerry Russell of Tyler and Randi Russell, civil chief in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas, nominated Johnston for the award. Both Kerry and Randi have worked alongside Johnston, who has overseen the Pre-Law Academy at SFA since 2014.
“Dr. Johnston’s leadership and effort in developing the academy have resulted in a unique opportunity for students to be exposed to our justice system and gain insight into the legal profession,” Kerry Russell said. “She devotes countless hours each spring to update and refine the program to enhance the experience for students.”
For Johnston, the best part of the academy is watching students’ excitement grow throughout the week.
“It is a joy to observe high school students come to SFA and see their excitement when they encounter everything the academy has to offer,” Johnston said. “We aim to bring highly motivated teens to participate in this experience; however, many applicants lack the financial means to attend. Donors are a key element to the program. It’s through their generous donations that we are able to offer scholarships, which determine whether or not many exceptional students are able to participate.”
Although some students already are dedicated to becoming an attorney, others are just beginning to look into the legal profession.
“Whether or not they eventually pursue careers in law, students come away with essential lifelong skills, which will help them succeed in college and life,” Johnston said. “They spend a week thinking critically, reasoning and constructing arguments, and doing so with professionalism. These are all skills that go hand-in-hand with a strong liberal arts-based education.”
To learn more about SFA’s Pre-Law Academy, contact Johnston at firstname.lastname@example.org or (936) 468-6722.