Kara Ingelhart, ’15, has been awarded a prestigious two-year Skadden Fellowship to serve low-income LGBTQ youth with juvenile or criminal records by addressing the many barriers they face in accessing housing, employment, and educational opportunities. She will be working in the Midwest Regional Office of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, where she interned in 2013.
“I have worked so hard to reach this point and make this project a reality, but I understand that the system is skewed in my favor,” said Ingelhart, a past president of OutLaw who has established herself as a dogged LGBTQ advocate. “I want to use my skills, institutional support, and position to change the system so that the deck is not stacked so strongly against LGBTQ teens and young adults.”
Ingelhart has worked for the National LGBTQ Task Force, earned grants from the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago and the Cook County State’s Attorney's LGBT Pride Celebration Scholarship program, and interned at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender & Reproduction. She has also worked as a summer associate in the Chicago office of Foley & Lardner.
“Kara has been extremely active since arriving at the Law School in championing the cause of LGBT rights. She is energetic, enthusiastic, tireless, and determined to move the debate forward in a positive direction,” said Geoffrey R. Stone, the Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor of Law. “We are very proud of her.”
The Skadden Fellowship Program, described as "a legal Peace Corps" by The Los Angeles Times, was established in 1988 to commemorate the firm's 40th anniversary. It provides funding for graduating law students to pursue their own projects providing legal services to the poor, the elderly, the homeless and the disabled, as well as those deprived of their civil or human rights. Ingelhart will be one of 28 fellows from 10 states in the program’s 2015 class.
Ingelhart said she designed her project — which will include policy advocacy, public education, and direct representation of clients in impact litigation — because it focuses on a particularly vulnerable population that needs better legal protection. Ingelhart is particularly concerned about those with sex offenses on their records.
“LGBT inmates and supervisees enter systems at disproportionately higher rates, receive harsher and more restrictive sentences than their non-LGBT peers, and are disproportionately low-income, people of color,” Ingelhart wrote in her proposal. “Moreover, LGBT youth experience disproportionate collateral effects upon reentry. Few youths receive post-dispositional advocacy, much less LGBT-specific interventions.”
Ingelhart said she wanted to go where she was most needed.
"The movement has made great strides in recent years,” she said. “I want to stretch that growing social support to include a new group of — I guess you call them untouchables, because that's how some of these kids are treated."
To ensure that her project is in touch with the population’s most critical needs, Ingelhart plans to create an advisory board of LGBTQ teens and young adults with criminal and juvenile records.
“That will be hard to put together, but the idea is that I’m accountable to them,” she said. “Sometimes you think you’re solving a problem and you create a whole host of new problems.”
She will also consult with a coalition of experts, as well as supervisors at Lambda Legal, the oldest and largest legal organization serving the LGBTQ population.
In their commitment letter to the Skadden Fellowship Program, project directors from Lambda Legal described Kara as “particularly well suited” for the project and an “ideal fit” for the organization’s ongoing work.
Ingelhart received the news while standing in the breezeway at the Law School Friday, and promptly told Professor Douglas G. Baird, who gave her a big hug.
“It doesn’t come as a surprise,” said Baird, the Harry A. Bigelow Distinguished Service Professor of Law. “She is completely passionate about what she does. She’s really smart, and really rigorous in the best Chicago tradition. She’s someone who is completely unafraid to confront hard, difficult questions that require sharp legal analysis.”
Susan Curry, the Law School’s Director of Public Interest Law and Policy, said she was delighted to see another Law School student received the Skadden Fellowship; 16 other Law School students or graduates have received a fellowship since the program began, according to the foundation’s website.
“I am delighted to see Kara’s commitment rewarded with this prestigious honor,” Curry said. “This will give Kara an exceptional start to what I am certain will be an impressive and meaningful career as a public interest lawyer.”