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Someone You Should Know
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Inside the EFE Site
Cheryl Jansen, Legislative Policy Manager for Equip for Equality, loves what she does. You can hear it in her voice and it is reflected in her lifetime dedication to civil rights advocacy.
Born and raised on the Near North side of Chicago as an only child, Cheryl spent summers in Allenspark, a small town just outside of Estes Park, Colorado, with her six stepbrothers and sisters. When it came time to apply for college, she chose Colorado State University in Fort Collins, majoring in anthropology.
"I enjoyed my studies tremendously, but I realized it was not the most practical career choice. I had always been interested in the law, so I decided to go to law school." Cheryl attended DePaul University's School of Law in Chicago. Shortly after graduating, she moved down to Springfield where she met her husband, Dave, through a mutual friend.
It was there that Cheryl began her career, practicing law at a small firm, Leahy Law Offices, which handles primarily employment discrimination and civil rights cases. Cheryl's work was shaped in these formative years by the Leahys, whom she considers her mentors.
"It was when I first began working with the Leahys that I found my passion for the work I was doing," Cheryl said. "They were advocating for individuals who had been discriminated against and fighting to break down the barriers that people encountered because of their age, gender, race, disability, religion or political affiliation. I was inspired by their creativity and dedication."
Cheryl recalls Rutan v Republican Party of Illinois: "We challenged the refusal to hire, promote, transfer, and recall (from lay-off) State employees on the basis of their political affiliation. In 1990, we argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that these political patronage practices were unconstitutional and we won. It was definitely one of the highlights of my career."
After more than 18 years of trial work with Leahy Law Offices, Cheryl decided she needed a change of pace. She took a position with the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education (IICLE), which offers educational materials and seminars to lawyers. As IICLE's Program Director, Cheryl was in charge of creating and producing legal seminars for attorneys throughout the State of Illinois. During her time at IICLE, Cheryl did a significant amount of traveling, approximately half of the month. With two school-age children, she decided to take some time off to dedicate to her family.
Cheryl came to Equip for Equality in 2004 as the Legislative Policy Manager in its Springfield office. "I am thrilled to be here, it was a great transition." Cheryl spends her days reviewing pending legislation, researching its impact on people with disabilities, and educating policy makers on disability-related issues. "It may sound boring to most people, but I really enjoy tracking bills through the legislative process."
"Cheryl's outstanding professional skill and grace under fire have already proven to be of great value to the Policy Program," says Marsha Koelliker, Policy Director. "She is also deeply committed to disability rights and a pleasure to work with. During her short tenure, Cheryl has already worked on a variety of issues including the involuntary commitment standard, the Illinois Human Rights Act, accessible voting issues, disability components of law enforcement training curricula and access to services by Latinos with disabilities with limited or no English language capability. We're very fortunate to have her working with us."
When she's not working, Cheryl enjoys the Cubs, gardening, riding her bike, and doing crossword puzzles. She currently resides in Springfield with her husband and their two children, Lauren, 19, and Alex, 17.
Someone You Should Know: Cheryl Jansen
"It may sound boring to most people, but I really enjoy tracking bills through the legislative process."