2017 – Sarah Hess

For Sarah Hess, helping others is not just a calling, but a family tradition. Sarah’s late father was a leading activist in Chicago’s school reform movement, championing equal educational rights for the city’s poorest students as the director of the Chicago Panel on School Policy. Determined to carry on his legacy of advocacy for our society’s most vulnerable members, Sarah applied to law school with the sole intention of practicing public interest law. A former professional ballet dancer and instructor at the School of Ballet Chicago, Sarah was particularly drawn to making a difference in the lives of children. “I was impressed by children’s awareness and resilience, and was inspired to foster space where they could succeed,” she says.

After graduating from The John Marshall Law School in 2014, Sarah was awarded a prestigious Skadden Fellowship. Through her project at Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, she developed and led an innovative medical-legal partnership at Erie Family Health Center’s school-based health clinics. Sarah served 150 clients and their families during her two-year fellowship, and successfully advocated for a statewide policy change to allow unaccompanied homeless youth to hold their own public benefits accounts, allowing them to more easily access the healthcare services for which they were eligible.

Following in her father’s footsteps, today Sarah serves and empowers children as a staff attorney at the Legal Council for Health Justice, where she is the lead attorney for a first of its kind medical-legal partnership with the University of Illinois at Chicago’s CHECK program. A burgeoning field in public interest law, medical-legal partnerships address social determinants of health by adding an attorney to a patient’s healthcare team to improve long-term medical outcomes. Sarah works with Community Health Workers to provide civil legal aid to neighborhood children and their families as they navigate a wide range of health-related legal issues, with a special focus on the growing field of trauma-informed advocacy. With the help of the Anderson Fellowship, Sarah will be able to continue serving the needs of these medically vulnerable children.