My First 30 Days at the Moran Center

A Restorative Start for this Director of Development & Communications

By Rachel J. Solomon (she/her)

image of woman with brown curly hair smiling and wearing a red shirt, this is rachel the author of this piece

I’m honored to introduce myself as the James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy’s new Director of Development & Communications!

I’m an advocate, dog and cat lover, hip-hop head, and Rogers Park-transplant by way of Richmond, Virginia. My passion is raising funds and awareness for drivers of positive social change, having supported remarkable programs in the past that ensure fair housing opportunity, build families through adoption, advocate for survivors of violence, protect animal welfare, and elevate independent media.

I began at the Moran Center on June 1 and an inspiring 30 days followed, introducing me to both the Moran Center and the needs and history of the Evanston community as a whole.

My first week, I was introduced to Evanston Cradle to Career – our community’s collective impact organization. Visiting Evanston’s community hub at 2010 Dewey Street, I marveled at the volume of community-based lifelines centralized in the Foster School building. Weeks later, we celebrated the site dedication for the 5th Ward’s new school, a triumph in educational access for Evanston children.

While youth and emerging adult defense is the cornerstone of the Moran Center, I quickly learned about the breadth of other legal services as well as the agency’s integrated mental health and restorative justice services. The holistic model at the Moran Center recognizes that families can face multiple legal challenges at once, often while still processing traumatic experiences.

The Moran Center’s School-Based Civil Legal Clinic represents families confronting destabilizing events like eviction and child custody disputes. The Criminal Record Relief team removes barriers to employment, housing, and education to support individuals achieve a fresh start.

 “Meet clients where they are” is a restorative mantra at the Moran Center, and I learned that it’s been adopted as a literal approach, too. Adapting to the pandemic lockdown, Moran Center Social Workers began offering (and still offer) “therapeutic walks” to make mental health support more accessible to Evanston youth.

In advocating for individualized learning, evaluations, and environmental accommodations, the Education Advocacy Program gives children managing learning disabilities, mental health challenges, and/or trauma real access to the classroom. Also – this Evanston program is being piloted in my neighborhood!

My month of discovery ended with a three-day staff retreat and training on restorative practices. I learned that relationships are at the core of restorative practices and they are definitely at the core of the Moran Center. ∎


Rachel J. Solomon (she/her) is the Director of Development & Communications at the James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy. With more than a decade of experience in nonprofit fundraising, media and community engagement, Rachel’s purpose is to fuel community advocacy through philanthropy. She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) and AFP Chicago; and AFP Chicago’s LGBTQIA+ Affinity Group. Rachel volunteers as a therapy dog handler with individuals managing PTSD and substance use recovery, and loves exploring Chicago’s restaurants, music venues, and independent movie theaters.