Turlock native Emily Yonan will soon be fighting for justice in the heart of the Big Apple when she starts her new job as an assistant district attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office in September.
Yonan, a Turlock Christian High and Stanislaus State graduate, will be finishing her last semester of law school at Washington University in St. Louis, where she serves as managing editor of Washington University’s Law Review and works in the school’s Wrongful Conviction Clinic.
She became a Panetta Institute Congressional Intern in 2017 and found a passion for anti-human trafficking work while interning in the leadership office of a member of the United States House of Representatives in Washington, D.C.
Yonan became interested in becoming a prosecutor during a summer internship in 2020, done remotely, at the department of justice. During that time, she assisted prosecutors with child abuse cases.
“I knew very early on that I wanted to pursue a career where I could help, serve, and advocate on behalf of others,” she said. “I spent the summer after my first year of law school interning in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice working on child abuse cases. The work that was being done—pursuing justice for some of the most vulnerable—was so important and challenging and rewarding. I felt a very clear calling to that kind of work, and I knew that because I felt called to it and that I could handle it, and that there are people who need the kind of help and services that one day I could hopefully offer, I had a responsibility to see it through and to follow that path further.”
That led to her fellowship in summer 2021 with the Manhattan D.A., which was also done remotely, other than a couple of weeks in New York City.
It was while researching and drafting motions for assistant district attorneys there that Yonan applied for a full-time position in the office. The four-interview process ended with a final Zoom meeting with former Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance and a job offer.
It was there that Vance asked “where is Turlock?” like so many others since she moved to St. Louis. Yonan happily tells everyone it’s where she grew up and attended Turlock Christian schools.
She credits Turlock and Stanislaus State for helping her develop the skills to achieve the success she has.
“The small environment of the school also made it so that it was a place where I felt like I could really grow and think deeply about my own ideas and values,” said Yonan. “I was fortunate enough to have met wonderful professors along the way who invested in me and helped me to become the person that I am, and it is partly because of their belief in me that I have gotten to where I am.”
A first-year honors communication studies class with Professor Michael Tumolo provided Yonan with public speaking experience, and she found a valued mentor. A constitutional law course with Political Science Professor Stephen Routh prepared her for law school and Yonan said Routh continues to be an important mentor to her.
While Law school helped her sharpen her skills, she learned a valuable lesson during her time as an undergraduate, such as the importance of public service.
“It was not until I joined the Warrior Lobby Team during my sophomore year at Stan State that I began to see my path really take shape,” said Yonan. “It was in that role that I was able to put some of my advocacy skills to use, and I learned how crucial it is to advocate for others and work to foster change.”
Her family, Turlock, the Assyrian community and Stanislaus State remained a valuable anchor for her during her time at law school.
“The encouragement and support that I received from the Stan State community is something that I never took for granted and it helped instill in me the belief that I could go to law school and achieve whatever my dreams may be,” said Yonan. “Looking back, I am so happy and grateful that I got to go to college in my hometown. It was definitely the right decision, and I am grateful I was able to learn and grow and grow up in a community I cherish so much.”