Posted March 29, 20211:23 pm
Attorney Kathleen Valdez always knew she wanted to dedicate her career to serving people. While working in a school district on the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia, Kathleen learned about the intersection of education and law, and how legal professionals could make an impact on the opportunities afforded to children in lower-resourced schools. “I became fascinated by the field of education law,” says Kathleen. “I knew that’s where I could make a difference.”
After law school, Kathleen worked at the law firm Ulmer Berne before starting her own education law practice. Kathleen began volunteering at Legal Aid’s brief advice clinics because, in her own words, “I wanted to take every opportunity to connect with the community I was going to serve.”
Kathleen also signed up to take on cases with Legal Aid pro bono. She was specifically interested in taking cases that came through Legal Aid’s Access to Education program and its partnership with Cleveland’s chapter of Say Yes to Education. Legal Aid is the official legal services provider for Say Yes to Education Cleveland, which now includes 46 schools. Each school has a designated Family Support Specialist, employed by Say Yes, who connects families with local nonprofits that can provide resources and assistance to help them access basic needs such as food, shelter, and safety.
An alumnus of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD), Kathleen now serves on the CMSD Board and has a daughter who attends a CMSD school.
Every time a family comes to Legal Aid with a problem, says Kathleen, that problem affects the children in the household and their education. “Even though a lot of the cases are about housing issues - an area of law I don’t normally practice - I was eager to learn, and Legal Aid made it easy,” she says. “And the clients have been so collaborative.”
To follow Kathleen’s lead and take on a pro bono Say Yes case, visit www.lasclev.org/voluneer.