Inside the Young Center
Maria Woltjen, the Director of the Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights, is an attorney whose career has centered on children’s rights. From 1991 to 1996, Ms. Woltjen directed the Children’s Advocacy Project of the Chicago Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights, focusing on delinquency, health and disabilities. From 2001 to 2004, Ms. Woltjen was adjunct faculty at the ChildLaw Center of Loyola Law School, working on environmental hazards affecting children. Ms. Woltjen lives outside Chicago with her husband and two children.
Elizabeth Frankel is Associate Director of the Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights at the University of Chicago. Before joining the Young Center, Ms. Frankel practiced in the areas of immigration and litigation at Verrill Dana LLP, where she devoted substantial time to asylum and removal cases. Ms. Frankel also clerked for the Honorable Susan J. Calkins of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. Ms. Frankel attended NYU School of Law, where she participated in the Juvenile Criminal Defense Clinic, representing children in Manhattan Family Court. Prior to law school, Ms. Frankel spent two years teaching English and E.S.L. in the bilingual program at a public middle school in the South Bronx, through Teach for America. Ms. Frankel received her B.A. from Middlebury College.
Kristin Greer Love is the Staff Attorney with the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights. Before joining the Young Center, Ms. Love was a Skadden Fellow and Policy Attorney with Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc. in Zacatecas, Mexico and Baltimore, Maryland. Ms. Love graduated from the University of Chicago and the University of Chicago Law School, where she worked in the Federal Criminal Justice and Employment Discrimination clinics.
Jennifer Nagda is Policy Advisor to the Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights. Before joining the Young Center, Ms. Nagda was an attorney at the Midwest Regional Office of MALDEF, litigating immigration, education and employment descrimination cases. Ms. Nagda also clerked for the Hon. James B. Zagel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Prior to law school, Ms. Nagda was the Associate Director of what is now the CityBridge Foundation in Washington, DC, a non-traditional foundation supporting innovative programs in the District of Columbia and internationally. Ms. Nagda is an honors graduate of the University of Chicago Law School and graduated magna cum laude from Duke University.
Alexandra Laguna is the Administrative Assistant for the Young Center. She graduated from Rutgers University and has studied abroad in Spain and Peru. Ms. Laguna has work experience in both university and nonprofit settings and has a passion for research and social justice issues.
Susan Schmidt, MSW, LGSW, is a Consultant with The Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights. She conducts research and writing on the intersection of immigration and child welfare issues, and co-authored the "Seeking Asylum Alone" U.S. report. She also works with Minnesota Kinship Caregivers Association, the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Bridging Refugee Youth and Children's Services, and volunteers as a guardian ad litem in Ramsey County, MN. She holds master's degrees from Columbia School of Social Work, and Boston University School of Theology.
Mary Bird is an attorney who has devoted her career to child welfare. Ms. Bird worked for five years as Senior Attorney with the Children’s Rights Project of the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago. She subsequently worked for the Cook County Office of the Public Guardian and the Inspector General for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. Ms. Bird teaches Street Law at Loyola University School of Law. Ms. Bird lives outside Chicago with her husband and two children.
Fanny Clonch is a high school teacher who grew up in Morocco and France. Ms. Clonch, who speaks Arabic, French and Spanish, has served as Child Advocate for children from all over the world – Yemen, Morocco, Haiti and Gambia. Ms. Clonch lives with her husband and two children in Chicago.
Mo Yan Leung is a social worker who has worked for more than ten years with unaccompanied immigrant children. Before serving as Child Advocate, Ms. Leung worked as a senior case manager at the International Children’s Center in Chicago. Ms. Leung provides expert guidance on cases involving unaccompanied children from China. Ms. Leung lives in Chicago with her husband.
Antonieta Diaz has devoted her career to working with victims of domestic violence. Ms. Diaz is currently studying for her doctorate in psychology at Northwestern University. Ms. Diaz lives with her family in Chicago.
Mirela Vesa has a Master’s Degree in Special Education and has worked with unaccompanied immigrant children for the past five years. Ms. Vesa, herself an immigrant from Romania, also speaks French, Spanish, and Hungarian. She teaches at a private elementary school and is working toward her Master’s Degree in Human Resources Development. She lives with her family in Evanston.
Susie Mazaheri holds a Masters in Social Work and a Masters in ESL Education. Her thirty-year school counseling career was dedicated to support and advocacy on behalf of children with special needs. A child advocate who speaks Spanish, Farsi and French, Susie leads American Red Cross mental health outreach on national disaster scenes, and interprets in local educational and psychiatric settings. She lives with her husband outside of Chicago.
Elizabeth Butler is an attorney who focuses her practice on juvenile and appellate law. Ms. Butler serves as a court-appointed attorney at the Cook County Juvenile Court representing children and parents in child protection and delinquency cases. She also represents clients in administrative hearings before the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. Ms. Butler lives with her husband and three children outside of Chicago.
Fanny Clonch, Chicago Public Schools
Antonieta Diaz, Confederation of Spanish American Families
Clayton A. Gibson, Ernst & Young LLP
Deb Hass, Serendipity Consulting
Andrea Jett, McCormick Foundation
Vanessa Lucas Melendez, Attorney
Maaza Mengiste, Author
Michael Peluso, Sidley Austin LLP
Esther Pandian-Riske, University of Illinois
Elissa Steglich, American Friends Service Committee
Jacqueline Bhabha, Executive Director, University Committee in Human Rights, Harvard University
Brigette DeLay, JD, MSW, UNICEF International, Dakar, Senegal
Linda Rio, former Director, Child Custody Pro Bono Project, American Bar Association
Susan Schmidt, Seeking Asylum Alone Project
Julie Gerber Sollinger, Attorney, Office of the Public Guardian of Cook County
Aryah Somers, Staff Attorney, Kids in Need of Legal Defense
Angela Coin-Vigil, Baker & McKenzie
Wendy Young, Director, Kids in Need of Legal Defense
After being orphaned in Morocco, Fanny Clonch was trapped in households where she was nothing more than a commodity. The story of her grandmother, who as a child had been sold into slavery and eventually escaped, inspired Fanny to find a way out.
Reported and co-produced by Alex Kotlowitz and edited and co-produced by Amy Dorn. [12:46 min.]
Exodus of One, by Alex Kotlowitz for
This American Life
Just three years old, Georgia was caught by immigration officials when a Milwaukee woman brought her into the country illegally from Jamaica. She ended up at a residential shelter in Chicago. No one knew much about Georgia—where she was from in Jamaica, who her parents were, or how she ended up with this woman from Milwaukee. [42 min.]
Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights
at the University of Chicago
6020 South University Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
© 2006 Immigrant Child Advocacy Project.
All rights reserved.
Axie Breen and Brian Robinson
Home page main photo by Tony Armour.
All others by Kathy Richland Pick.