Growing up in Los Angeles, Beth Cunningham witnessed poverty and injustice on a regular basis and always knew that she wanted to make a positive impact on the lives of others. During law school at the University of Denver - Strom College of Law, she developed a passion for child advocacy. Beth worked at the Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center in law school and for two years after graduation and realized that for every child that she helped, many more would fall through the cracks as the systems designed to educate and protect them failed them. She determined then that she wanted to focus her work on helping young adults in crisis get back on their feet.
In October 2007, Beth moved to Chicago to become the Youth Attorney for Youth Futures, a mobile legal clinic for homeless youth that is part of the Law Project of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. There is nothing easy about serving youth who live or have lived on the street. Many of these young people have learned not to trust any adults in their lives – and with reason. Not all of their problems, of course, have legal solutions. But the help Beth can render, such as getting a homeless youth enrolled in high school or helping them to access public benefits, is often just what they need to get their lives back on track.
A key part of the work of Youth Futures is to develop trust with homeless youth so they will discuss their legal issues and seek resolution. Laurene Heybach, the Director of the Law Project and the first recipient of the Thomas H. Morsch Public Service Award, notes that Beth “…gives from the heart, uses her considerable legal skills and still keeps perspective.” With the Anderson Fellowship, Beth will be in a much better position to help many more young people with nowhere else to turn.