2015 – Cynthia Cornelius

Cynthia Cornelius serves as the Assistant Director of Legal Programs at Cabrini Green Legal Aid, where she assists individuals who are experiencing direct and collateral consequences of their involvement in the criminal justice system.  She has worked at CGLA in some capacity since law school, first as an intern, then as an Equal Justice Works Fellow, later as Director of Client and Community Services, and now in her current role, through which she supervises attorneys in the oversight and management of the Criminal Records Unit and supports all CGLA legal programs.  Over the years, Cynthia has helped countless individuals expunge or seal their criminal records or otherwise obtain the certificates necessary to remove barriers to employment and other basic rights so they can get a second chance and move forward in their lives.  In addition, through her fellowship, Cynthia designed and implemented Criminal Records Corps, a project providing criminal records services to individuals who are homeless or at risk of homelessness through social service agencies in Chicago.  This innovative partnership model of service delivery was so successful that CGLA has integrated it into its general intake process, which has resulted in an increased number of clients served.  Cynthia’s coworkers describe her as bold and courageous, with an unwavering moral compass and a drive to make a difference in the lives of others.

Cynthia’s journey to public service is inspiring.  Nearly twenty years ago, she was employed as a Director of Customer Service at BellSouth, earning good money with bonuses and stock options.  Following a personal tragedy, she gave up this successful career to dedicate her life to serving others.  Cynthia began working at the Georgia Public Service Commission, where she had her first taste of being a public servant and first exposure to the practice of law.  This work ultimately motivated her to return to law school in her fifties with the goal of becoming a public interest attorney and, as she puts it, an instrument of peace.  Cynthia attended Loyola University Chicago School of Law, where she received a public interest certificate and numerous awards.  Cynthia truly exemplifies what it means to be a public servant.  In recognition of her accomplishments, she recently was selected to receive Loyola’s prestigious Norman C. Amaker Award of Excellence.

As a result of her extraordinary efforts and accomplishments advocating for low-income individuals, Cynthia was awarded a CBF Sun-Times Public Interest Fellowship in 2015, a financial award that, according to Cynthia, “lifts the burden of law school student loans from my shoulders so I can stand taller for my clients and the communities CGLA serves.”