“I’ve wanted to be an attorney since the seventh grade,” Malone said. “I wanted to be an advocate and speak for those people that had been forgotten.”
She has done exactly that, earning a degree from the Creighton University School of Law, representing underprivileged victims for a couple of decades – often pro bono – and laying the ideal groundwork for a full-circle return to another of her passions: teaching.
Malone, who has been a practicing attorney for the past 23 years, joined the Amarillo College faculty in 2015 as coordinator of the Legal Studies Program.
“Teaching has just been in my DNA,” the lifelong Amarilloan said. “I want my students to know that they have a champion, someone who knows that it’s in them to be successful.”
Her student advocacy has clearly borne fruit; almost 85 percent of AC legal studies students either enter the workforce immediately upon graduation, or they successfully transfer to a university in search of bachelor’s degrees and beyond.
Three recent graduates of the program currently are enrolled in schools of law, the same pathway Malone followed as a young adult. A graduate of Amarillo High School, Malone swiftly earned two degrees at Amarilllo College – in pre-law and business administration.
A bachelor’s degree at Texas Tech University then served as a stepping stone to her study of law at Creighton.
“My teachers told me that I could be anything that I wanted to be,” Malone said. “I’ve brought that understanding into my classroom.
“The most rewarding thing for me is watching students overcome obstacles and challenges and being a part of that, helping them problem solve and identify effective ways to address the challenges they face in their educational careers.”
Many challenges faced by students today – barriers to academic success – are not necessarily classroom issues, but instead stem from outside influences, often legal issues. So, in an effort to assist all AC students, while giving her own charges valuable hands-on experience, Malone spearheaded the establishment of AC’s Legal Clinic.
Staffed by legal studies students and supported by bar-certified lawyers, the clinic provides free legal services on weekdays for AC students who need help dealing with non-criminal cases involving divorce, child custody, wills, landlord-tenant relations, immigration, traffic tickets, and more.
“The Clinic has been even more successful than we imagined, and the students we serve are getting good legal services,” Malone said. “We’ve had positive feedback from both the students we’ve served and the judges who have ruled on the paperwork we’ve drafted on behalf of those students, our clients.
“Also, our legal studies students who participate in the Clinic are better equipped when they go out to work in an actual law office, so it’s been very beneficial.”
Public service has long been a priority for Malone, who is an elected member of the school board for the Amarillo Independent School District and serves on boards for Legal Aid of Northwest Texas and Family Support Services.
The assistant professor of legal studies is equally enamored by what Amarillo College offers her community.
“I’ve always felt like education levels the playing field,” she said. “I think Amarillo College is cutting edge. I like the family atmosphere. I love the fact that we embrace our students, we are vested in their success.
“We understand that your success in getting through this program and succeeding is a product of everything about you, not just how you’re performing in the classroom.”