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STCL Houston Students Revive Veterans Association in New Form; Provide Mentorship

Home Law School News STCL Houston Students Revive Veterans Association in New Form; Provide Mentorship

Recently, some of the military veterans enrolled at South Texas College of Law Houston recognized the need for an active veterans affinity group.

“We learned that a student veterans organization existed on and off over the past 15 years or so,” said Jake

Johnson, president of the STCL Houston Veteran Law Students Association (VLSA) and second-year law student. “We decided to revive that concept and make it a robust resource that offers support for student veterans.”

Johnson, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps for eight years, will graduate from South Texas with his J.D. degree in December 2023. He is one of almost 40 military veterans enrolled at STCL Houston.

He explained that VLSA is still taking shape. The group offers networking opportunities, peer mentorship, and is planning for community service events in the future. “Our focus is building a community that can give,” Johnson said. “We looked after one another when we served, so we felt like it was important to continue doing that as law students.”

VLSA’s membership is growing. The organization is open to any student interested in student veteran affairs.

“We have a member who is interested in becoming a Judge Advocate General, and we have other members who are not vets but want to support those of us who are,” said VLSA Vice President Vanessa Botello, a second-year student and former military police officer in the U.S. Army. “One of our goals is to invite judges, lawyers, and other legal professionals to speak in front of our members so they can better understand various career options.”

Casey Wilkinson, a first-year student and former U.S. Coast Guard intelligence specialist mentored by Botello, is glad to have an organization like VLSA.

“Coming to law school is quite different than being in the military,” Wilkinson said. “Having peers and mentors who have dealt with the V.A. and the G.I. Bill is valuable. Being part of VLSA also helps with the adjustment to civilian life as a law student. You have to create your own structure.”

Johnson described VLSA’s composition. “We have members from five of the six branches of the service — Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard,” he said.

He believes law students with military training and experience bring added value because they understand and respect the value of teamwork and generally have a great deal of experience and perspective in solving difficult problems under pressure. He hopes VLSA will be a bridge to help student veterans move forward and become leaders as they embark on their legal careers.

For more information about VLSA at STCL Houston, contact Jake Johnson by email at jake.johnson@stcl.edu

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