American Educational Research Association honors CCH attorneys Patricia Nix-Hodes and Laurene Heybach

CCH legal aid attorneys Patricia Nix-Hodes and Laurene Heybach were honored Thursday by the American Educational Research Association.

AERA’s Critical Educators for Social Justice presented the 2015 Community Advocacy Award to Ms. Nix-Hodes and Ms. Heybach during its annual conference in Chicago.

The award recognizes community advocates who have made distinguished contributions to improve the educational conditions of students, families and/or communities towards social justice. The awards committee cited “the immense impact your work has had in Chicago… an exemplary model for community advocacy.” 

Ms. Heybach founded the Law Project at CCH in 1997, serving as director until assuming the role of senior counsel last July. Ms. Nix-Hodes has worked with Ms. Heybach since 1998, succeeding her as director of the Law Project.

Through the years, their legal aid and policy advocacy has focused on the needs of homeless students and youth, as well as impact litigation. They are assisted by Youth Futures, a mobile legal aid clinic launched in 2004.

Their legal work includes winning a court decision in 2000 that requires the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to offer support services for homeless students, with a teacher or staffer trained to assist them in every city-run school. Last school year, CPS identified 22,146 homeless students. The Law Project and Youth Futures served 333 clients in 2014, 94% of whom were students or youth.

CCH’s senior attorneys will participate in an AERA panel Friday afternoon that features authors of academic articles on the education of homeless students.

Ms. Heybach and Ms. Nix-Hodes wrote  “Removing Barriers: The Struggle to Ensure Educational Rights for Students Experiencing Homelessness,” published in the fall 2014 issue of Critical Questions in Education.

Two of the other panelists also serve on the CCH Law Project’s Education Committee: Ann M. Aviles de Bradley of Northeastern Illinois University and Jessica Heybach of Aurora University. They co-authored “Ending Teacher Ignorance: A Critical Inquiry Into Teacher Education’s Response to the McKinney-Vento Act,” also published by Critical Questions in Education.

– Anne Bowhay, Media