Evanston born and raised, Betsy Lehman always knew she would come back to Evanston to raise her children. She believes growing up in Evanston was instrumental in shaping her worldview, values, and career choices. Evanston holds a special place in her heart, but she also recognizes that our community is not without its flaws. This is one of the reasons Betsy joined the Moran Center Board more than ten years ago.
Prior to joining the Moran Center Board, Betsy had worked as an attorney at the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago before returning to school to get a master’s in social work. She made this decision after coming to the realization that while her clients all had immediate legal needs, at the root of many of their problems were more systemic challenges. Without addressing those issues in a holistic way, Betsy believed that it would be extremely difficult for her clients to avoid further legal issues. Betsy saw that if the goal was to achieve meaningful, lasting change for clients, their legal cases could not be viewed in isolation of other pressing social, environmental, and economic concerns. Betsy would later learn that this is exactly what the Moran Center’s integrated model provides for its clients.
Before joining the Board, Betsy was also involved in another aspect of the Moran Center – restorative justice! In 2012, Betsy began volunteering as part of the Evanston Police Department’s Restorative Justice Diversion program and with the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Restorative Justice Project. She saw firsthand the transformative power of peace circles to form connections between people, even when on the surface it might seem that the participants had little in common. Not only that, Betsy found that restorative justice was a unique way to afford a person who caused harm an authentic and honest opportunity to hear and see how their actions affected the person they harmed, as well as the community more broadly. Often, the person committing harm has needs that are not being met, so in addition to providing a process for harm to be repaired, restorative justice holds the community accountable for all its members, providing an opportunity to identify, and rectify, challenges that are keeping community members from their optimal growth and success. Betsy sees restorative justice as an effective way to strengthen our community, provide a meaningful opportunity for personal growth, and keep youth in school and out of broken institutions. With the same goals in mind, Betsy has also recently started volunteering as an academic tutor at Evanston Township High School.
Betsy has served as the Chair of the Moran Center’s Board of Directors for the past five years. While she has had experience on a variety of different boards, such as the ACLU of Illinois and Planned Parenthood of Illinois, Betsy says her experience at the Moran Center has been uniquely rewarding. Being able to work with a smaller organization and see the direct impact of her efforts has been incredibly gratifying. She also feels extremely honored to be able to work alongside the dedicated staff and volunteers of the Moran Center, who work tirelessly to advocate for youth and their families in Evanston. Betsy has witnessed substantial growth during her tenure at the Moran Center, including the addition of educational advocacy, alternative to suspension programming, and, most recently, the opening of a school-based civil legal clinic. She is so proud of the Moran Center’s ability to now serve clients’ needs more fully.
Betsy wants all Evanston youth to be able to reach their own individual potential and not be held back by past mistakes, the color of their skin, their socioeconomic status, their learning differences, or anything else. She is committed to making Evanston more equitable and just for all its residents.