Affiliate Spotlight: The Smith County Young Lawyers Association

Vol. 39 No. 3

By

Deepa Goraya is an Assistant Editor of The Affiliate, a member of the LEAD Center Public Policy team in Washington, D.C., and a Public Policy Research Specialist at National Disability Institute, also in Washington, D.C.

The Smith County Young Lawyers Association (SCYLA), headquartered in Tyler, Texas, has a 14-member board of directors that oversees the functions of the organization and plans community projects and events. SCYLA is a specialty bar association under the umbrella of the Smith County Bar Association. Its membership consists of attorneys practicing in Smith County who are 36 years of age and under, as well as attorneys who are over 36 and who have been practicing law for five years or less. SCYLA provides opportunities for young lawyers in Smith County to meet one another and network, serve the community, and serve the legal profession. It is very active, with several long-term events planned for the 2013–2014 year.

Veteran’s History Project

In an ongoing project for the 2013–2014 bar year, each SCYLA board member interviews a veteran of a foreign war and documents that veteran’s experience in the military. The purpose of this project is to connect with veterans in the community to learn their history and to document their stories. Each veteran is provided a transcript of his or her interview and another copy is mailed to the Library of Congress for archiving. SCYLA hopes to conduct at least one interview per month for the next year.

One veteran’s interview, taken by SCYLA Board Member Lee Correa, tells of his capture and confinement in a World War II POW camp. This veteran describes how he eventually escaped from the camp and evaded authorities to gain his freedom.

“I Was First, Vote for Me!”

On Election Day (November 5) SCYLA partnered with the Smith County Bar Association to present this project to local elementary schools in the City of Tyler, Texas. The program educated students on certain historical figures that were “the first” to make a significant accomplishment such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Caesar Chavez, and others. A video showcases 22 historical figures and their accomplishments. Students then cast secret ballots for which historical figure they believe should have a fictitious school named after him or her. Once the ballots are tallied, they are entered online and students can follow which individual has the statewide lead. The project is part of a statewide initiative by the State Bar of Texas to incorporate lessons in reading, math, citizenship, and voting. It not only informs students about the importance of the Constitution and voting rights, but also aligns with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards for elementary students and prepares them for the TEKS exam.

SCYLA Vice-President and Chair for the project, Alesha Williams, presented the program to over 1,000 students at Clarkston Elementary, Ramey Elementary, and Vista Academy, along with board member Bryan Campbell and Smith County Bar Association Vice-President Tom Gibson. Ms. Williams has coordinated with several additional elementary schools in the Tyler Independent School District to continue presenting the project during the coming months.

Swearing in Ceremony for Newly Licensed Attorneys

SCYLA board members Krysten Senkyr and Christina Davis organized a swearing-in ceremony for newly admitted Texas attorneys. During the ceremony, new attorneys introduced themselves to the court, announced the law school they attended, and their immediate career plans. SCYLA President Taylor Heaton welcomed the new admittees to the practice of law and encouraged them to become connected with other young attorneys in the area.

Judge Carol Clark of the 321st District Court individually gave each attorney the Texas attorney’s oath. A small reception was held for the attorneys and their families after the ceremony.

10th Annual Smith County National Adoption Day

The year 2013 marked SCYLA’s 10th year of participation in National Adoption Day (NAD). This reception was to honor and celebrate the permanent adoption of several children in foster care. The event was held at Rose Heights Church in Tyler, Texas. Judge Carol Clark of the 321st Judicial District Court of Smith County, Texas, presided over the adoptions of 15 children, all of whom had been in the care of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. As a result of SCYLA’s annual commitment to NAD, 143 foster children have been adopted at this event since 2004. This was a large scale event in which SCYLA partnered with the local affiliate of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (TDFPS) and several other nonprofit adoption agencies. SCYLA applied for and received three separate grants, as well as donations from local law firms and businesses to fund the event. Regions Bank of Tyler donated customized shirts for the adopted children. SCYLA purchased various gift cards and age appropriate items for the adoptive families. In addition, professional photography was donated by Heaton Photography. The event was covered by local media outlets and featured on the front page of the Tyler Morning Telegraph. About 250 people attended the reception. Immediate Past SCYLA President Bryan Campbell and Mandy Bryan of TDFPS were presented with awards for their “outstanding dedication and excellence” for their long-standing work with Smith County National Adoption Day. In addition, members of the legal community praised the positive outcomes of the adoption process. Taylor Heaton and Bryan Campbell chaired the event and coordinated closely with all volunteers and the court to oversee administrative logistics and planning. Because of the popularity of this event, SCYLA has added an additional adoption day since June 2011 entitled Smith County Adoption Day, making it a bi-annual event.

East Texas Roundtable Discussion on Human Trafficking

This April, SCYLA will partner with Refuge of Light to co-host a community roundtable discussion on domestic minor sex trafficking. This discussion will take place to raise awareness and educate the Smith County community on the growing problem of domestic child sex trafficking in the East Texas area. Dallas, Texas, has been named one of the top-14 regions in the United States as a hub for sex trafficking. According to federal and local authorities, Tyler is being used as a hot spot location along the Interstate 20 corridor to prostitute young children. SCYLA hopes to use this project to bring together local and federal law enforcement personnel, nonprofit organizations, churches, attorneys, child advocates, and community leaders to help confront this emerging issue.

In addition to having various speakers at the roundtable, SCYLA will present a video made by the Texas Young Lawyers Association entitled Slavery Out of the Shadows: Spotlight on Human Trafficking. SCYLA received a grant from the Texas Young Lawyers Association for this event.

If you would like to speak with the Smith County Young Lawyers Association regarding its projects or to get information on how to incorporate any of its projects or events into your affiliate’s activities, you may contact SCYLA President for 2013–2014 Taylor Heaton at 903/535-0850 ext. 240, or email him at Mtheaton@smith-county.com. You may also visit SCYLA’s Facebook page to become informed about all of its activities at https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Smith-County-Young-Lawyers-Association/160124557360609, or its website at http://affiliates.tyla.org/scyla/.

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