In September 2017, Jessica Vealitzek had a decision to make. She stepped into her Hawthorn Woods, Illinois yard and gave herself 10 minutes to clear her mind. She’d been wavering on whether or not to run as a Democrat for the Lake County Board’s 10th district in the November 2018 elections against Republican incumbent Charles “Chuck” Bartels. She knew she wanted to make a difference in her community and help create a better future for her kids, but she wasn’t sure if running for office was the answer.
“I kind of tried to let all the emotion around the decision filter away,” Vealitzek said. “I came back with the feeling that I needed and wanted to do something that might be hard, that might be uncomfortable, that might be scary, but I really wanted to do something.”
Growing up as part of a big Italian family in New Jersey, Patricia Russo, executive director of the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University, first wanted to become a nun. “That was my calling,” she said. “But then, of course, puberty hit, and that was the end of that.”
The 2018 midterm elections saw historic numbers of women elected in state and national races. Part of that can be attributed to Russo, who—while not a nun—still credits her family as a source of career inspiration. Her mother was loving and nurturing, the type to whip up a lasagna after school for the neighborhood kids. Her intellectual father was a politically active Democrat.
“I think the combination is really what got me involved,” she said. “I remember him marching against the Vietnam War every weekend, and I remember saying to him one weekend, ‘I want to go with you.’”
In an average week, Sufyan Sohel receives five phone calls from international travelers and their families facing obstacles entering the U.S. While these travelers usually carry valid visas, they find themselves held up at customs and seek out Sohel for help.
This is not Sohel’s full-time job. Sohel is the Deputy Director and counsel for CAIR-Chicago. However, Sohel also leads group of volunteer lawyers stemming from the early days of the Trump Administration’s January 2017 travel ban, which limited travel from seven Muslim-majority countries. A rush of lawyers inundated O’Hare International Airport upon the ban’s announcement, offering legal assistance to those detained at the airport and their families.
Ibie Hart is locked out—again.
For the second day in a row, the sleep-deprived statewide outreach manager for Common Cause Illinois left her keys at home. Today is Election Day, and she needs to get into her office. She’s anxious to begin her day of mobilizing volunteers in a get-out-the-vote phone banking campaign.
Common Cause, a national non-partisan organization, builds voter participation through pursuing fair elections and increased voting accessibility. For Hart, this means spending Election Day getting as many people as possible to vote by making phone calls until the minute the polls close.
The U.S. maternal mortality rate is rising, an especially stark fact for black women, who die three to four times as frequently as white women from pregnancy and childbirth-related complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While various reports over the past year highlighted this disparity, Illinois legislators and healthcare leaders are working to combat this issue—and they’re starting with education.
Other stories by Miriam Finder Annenberg