We fight for your right to learn

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 Inés Kuperschmit

 Co-Executive Director & Founder - Management and Operations

 

E: ines@learningrights.org

P: (213) 542 - 1828

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Janeen Steel

Co-Executive Director & Founder - Litigation and Advocacy

 

E: janeen@learningrights.org

P: (213) 489 - 4035

Janeen Steel earned her Juris Doctor at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law, where she received the UCLA La Raza Alumni Association Cesar Chavez Summer Fellowship to create the blueprint for her future – the Learning Rights Manual, an advocacy guide for families of students with disabilities. Janeen received an Echoing Green Fellowship, which allowed her to create the Learning Rights Project under the auspices of the Disability Rights Legal Center (at Loyola Law School), where she practiced for five years. In September 2005, she took the project independent and co-founded a new nonprofit, Learning Rights Law Center.

 

Janeen Steel was the founding Executive Director of Learning Rights Law Center from 2005-2012, overseeing and managing all aspects of the nonprofit, including supervision of attorneys, fundraising, marketing, finances and, board development as well as the direct representation of clients in federal civil rights actions and special education administrative hearings. Starting in 2012 she became the Co-Executive Director, where she oversees the organizations programs and supervises all aspects of Learning Right’s advocacy efforts, including supervising staff attorneys, directly representing clients, overseeing all programs and spearheading policy initiatives. Janeen makes time to teach others the importance of the rights of all children in the education system. She has been a Visiting Professor at some of California’s most prestigious law schools and regularly conducts workshops, trainings and seminars at community based organizations throughout Los Angeles County

 

Inés Kuperschmit co-founded Learning Rights Law Center together with Janeen Steel in 2005 and has recently been promoted from Deputy Director to Co-Executive Director for Management and Operations..  Previously, she was a staff attorney and Skadden Fellow at Public Counsel, where she represented youth in the juvenile justice and foster care system who suffer from mental health problems or developmental disabilities. Ines enjoys teaching as much as she does lawyering, having taught a graduate course at Antioch University and co-teaching the Education Law Clinic at UCLA School of Law.  She also co-taught the USC Special Education Advocates Training Program (SEAT), which aims to increase and professionalize special education advocacy in California, and eventually nationwide. 

 

Inés was born in Argentina and raised in Washington, D.C. She graduated from the UCLA School of Law in 2002 where she was in the Program for Public Interest Law and Policy (PILP).  She received her bachelor of arts degree with high honors from the University of Virginia. Inés enjoys political activism, community development, and exploring Los Angeles with her three little boys.

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Kyra Clipper

Director, Advocacy for Children with Autism Program

 

E: kyra@learningrights.org

P: (213) 542 - 1834

Kyra Clipper discovered her passion for special education law during law school. Before joining Learning Rights as a staff attorney, she worked as a law clerk for the Disability Rights Legal Center, the Pepperdine Special Education Advocacy Clinic and Learning Rights. 

 

She is currently the Director of the Advocacy for Children with Autism Program. She earned her B.A. in English from USC and her law degree from Pepperdine University School of Law.  In her spare time, she enjoys reading and spending time with her daughter.

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Carol Jung

Director, Los Angeles Medical-Legal Collaborative for Education

 

E: carol@learningrights.org

P: (213) 489 - 4037

Carol Jung is a dedicated advocate that comes to Learning Rights Law Center with over a decade of experience working with children and adults with special needs. 

 

She began her work with this population as a project coordinator with the Childrens Hospital Los Angeles where she was able to gain knowledge and experience developing and implementing programs aimed at increasing access to needed services and supports for people with disabilities. 

 

Carol continues this work as an attorney whose practice is focused primarily on representing students with disabilities and their families to obtain access to education. Carol received her Juris Doctorate from Loyola Law School and a dual Masters’ in Social Work and Public Administration from the University of Southern California. 

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Rodolfo Estrada

Director, TIGER Program

 

E: rodolfo@learningrights.org

P: (213) 488 - 1829

Rodolfo came to Learning Rights with a range of experience in government and nonprofits. Before moving back home to California, Rodolfo was the Manager of a New York State office focused on working with immigrants and New Americans. In that capacity, he oversaw statewide funding of various immigration-related programs in New York. Previously, Rodolfo worked as the Executive Director of a community-based immigration nonprofit and as a Senior Program Associate at a national think tank doing national language access work and training police on the use of the U-visa (for victims of crime). Rodolfo began his legal career working as a Staff Attorney and Policy Analyst on a project that focused on immigrant students with special education needs.

 

Rodolfo has a B.A. from Stanford University; a J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law; and a M.A. in bilingual/bicultural studies from Columbia University’s Teachers College. He is admitted to the New York State bar.

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Samantha Cochran

Director of Pro Bono and Brief Services

 

E: samantha@learningrights.org

P: (213) 542 - 1825

Samantha Cochran has been dedicated to child advocacy since law school. Following her graduation from Harvard Law School in 2012, Samantha was a staff attorney and fellow at the Children’s Law Center of California, where she represented youth in the dependency system. Prior to joining Learning Rights, Samantha also worked in the private sector on a variety of civil rights and discrimination cases.

 

Samantha received her bachelor of arts degree from New York University where she graduated summa cum laude. During her time at Harvard Law School, she served on the board of the Harvard Journal of Law and Gender and participated in both the Child Advocacy Clinic and the Gender Violence & Title IX Clinic. In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading and volunteering.

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Jessica Toth

Part-Time Staff Attorney

 

E: jessica@learningrights.org

 

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Edith Jasper

Staff Attorney

 

E: edith@learningrights.org

P: (213) 542 - 1827

Jessica Toth started working at Learning Rights as a law student and has been on staff since 2007. Jessica served as the Director of Pro Bono and Brief Services, managed the Los Angeles Medical-Legal Collaborative for Education (LAMCE) Program and she is currently working with us as a staff attorney to help us with our resource development and special education administrative hearing cases.

 

Jessica attended the University of Washington and Southwestern University School of Law. In her free time, Jessica enjoys spending time at home with her husband, son and daughter, cooking and baking, and being out in the beautiful Los Angeles weather.

Edith Jasper earned her Juris Doctor degree at the University of Southern California, Gould School of Law, where she received a Sidley fellowship and the La Raza Public Interest Law Foundation grant. 

 

Additionally, she was the recipient of the Dorothy Wright Nelson Justice Award, presented to the student who has made the most significant contribution toward the improvement of the administration of justice. During her time at USC Law, Edith regularly volunteered for Public Counsel's General Relief Assistance Project and La Raza’s Teen Court program. 

 

Edith was a community service chair for La Raza Law Students Association and as secretary and social chair for the Black Law Students Association. Prior to law school, Edith attended California State University, Long Beach, where she majored in Psychology.

 

 

Before joining Learning Rights, Edith ran her own family law practice.

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Edith Madrid

Staff Attorney

 

E: edithm@learningrights.org

P: (213) 542 - 7281

Edith Madrid discovered her passion for child advocacy as a law student while working at the Children's Rights Legal Clinic at Southwestern Law School. Through her clinical experience, she advocated for children at IEP meetings and at school discipline and delinquency hearings.

 

Thereafter, she continued her advocacy as a special education law clerk at a private law practice. She served as a federal judicial extern for the Honorable Michael Wilner of the United States District Court, Central District of California, where she gained practical knowledge of civil and criminal procedure as well as exposure to a variety of constitutional issues.

 

Edith not only brings practical experience in special education advocacy, but also a genuine passion and enthusiasm for social justice. She received her B.A. in Political Science and Chicano Studies from UCLA and her Juris Doctorate from Southwestern Law School.

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Leticia Mejia

Coordinator, Pro Bono and Brief Services

 

E: leticia@learningrights.org

P: (213) 623 - 4794

Shortly after graduating from UCLA in 2006 with a degree in History and Chicano studies, Leticia Mejia started working at Learning Rights Law Center.

 

Leticia began as an Administrative Assistant. She then worked with Special Education Advocacy Training (SEAT) Project, in 2008 and is now an education advocate who works with parents during Learning Rights' Brief Legal Service Clinics.

 

In addition to her advocacy work she coordinates the intake process and conducts initial screenings.

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E. Melissa Rios

Paralegal Manager

 

E: meli@learningrights.org

P: (213) 542 - 1823

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Leslie Machuca

Education Advocate

 

E: leslie@learningrights.org

P: (213) 542 - 1824

Melissa Rios started working at Learning Rights Law Center in 2007 as a file clerk while concurrently attending UCLA. Double majoring in English Literature and Women’s Studies, Melissa wanted to use her writing skills and love of equality and enter the legal field.

 

During her last year at UCLA , she was placed to intern at various self-help centers in the Los Angeles state courthouses through an AmeriCorps program, JusticeCorps, which heightened her interest in the legal field. She received her paralegal certificate from UCLA extension and was promoted to paralegal within Learning Rights.

 

Melissa assists with all legal and manages administrative support at Learning Rights. She plans to attend law school in the near future.

Leslie Machuca began working for Learning Rights in February of 2014 as a Pro Bono and Brief Services Coordinator. She received her Master of Arts in International Studies with honors from the Sigma Iota Rho Honors Society at Chapman University, and her Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies with Cum Laude from Mount St. Mary's College.

 

During her last year at Chapman University, Leslie received the Baxter Fellowship and interned for an NGO called El Portal Amarillo in Uruguay, working with teenagers and young adults through the drug rehabilitation process.  Prior, she worked as a Spanish Teacher for 5th through 8th graders, as well as a Graduate Research Assistant investigating the after effects of war on young adults from Cambodia.

 

Leslie's interests are centered on youth at risk and education. Consequently she wrote her thesis paper on "US Policies in El Salvador and the Internationalization of Gangs." Due to Leslie's keen concentration in education matters, working for Learning Rights has been pure joy. She receives great satisfaction seeing families advocate for their children, as well as working with a group of dedicated professionals who work towards advocacy, justice and policy-making. 

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Gabriela Garcia

Administrative Assistant

 

E: gabriela@learningrights.org

Gabriela Garcia began to work at Learning Rights Law Center in May 2012. She was born and raised in Guadalajara, Mexico, where she obtained her Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration & Tourism at the University of Guadalajara.

 

A few years after moving to Los Angeles, she started attending the Downey TIGER parent Community Group to learn more on how to advocate for her son's rights within the special education system. There, she met Leticia Mejia, who later referred Gabriela to Learning Rights to work in the TIGER program, and she currently works as an administrative assistant and in-house translator for Learning Rights.

 

She would like to continue to work and grow in the nonprofit sector and promote the rights of children with special needs.
 

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Sergei Hasenecz

Legal File Clerk

 

E: sergei@learningrights.org

P: (213) 542 - 7280

Sergei Hasenecz has had many years experience as a legal file clerk in a variety of practices, including Intellectual Property, Workers Compensation, Construction Defect, Land Use, and more. Since coming to Learning Rights in May 2014, he finds himself relieved to be, for once, on the side of the angels.

 

Sergei’s free time is spent with his young son and, upon occasion, as a creative writer of unimportant works.

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Cindy Plair

Coordinator, Outreach & TIGER Program

 

E: cindy@learningrights.org

P: (213) 542 - 1829

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Wendy Ruiz

Finance and Office Administration

 

E: wendy@learningrights.org

P: (213) 542 - 1830

Cindy joined Learning Rights in January 2014 with a major in Graphic Design. Before joining Learning Rights she worked as a Parent Liaison/Coordinator in Charter Schools located in the inner cities of Los Angeles County. Where she was the catalyst for the parent volunteer program and facilitated parent workshops as well as executing a collection of fundraising efforts.

 

Cindy lead parents into an empowering phase of their children's education by providing them the tools to stand up and sound their voices for change. Cindy is a fitness enthusiast and is a certified Cycle Instructor in the Hawthorne, Whittier, Lakewood, and South Bay areas. Working at Learning Rights brings her great Pride.​

Wendy Ruiz is a Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society member who has been bestowed various awards, including Certificate of Congressional Recognition for Academic Excellence and Scholastic Achievement Award from the California State Senate.

 

She is an avid advocate for education rights, traveling to Sacramento to meet with California Senators and Assembly members to encourage and support legislation allowing foster youth to acquire fair and equitable education rights. Among her achievements is her work to successfully pass AB 1933 providing educational stability for foster youth.

 

Wendy interned for Congress member Karen Bass in California, and the Ways and Means Subcommittee in Washington, D.C. where she advanced foster care issues at the national level. She is proud to work at Learning Rights Law Center where her work contributes to the advancement of educational equality for all. 

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Azra Variscic

Development Manager

 

E: azra@learningrights.org

P: (213) 542 - 7282

Azra Variscic joined Learning Rights Law Center as a Development Associate in March of 2014. In this capacity, she manages Annual Giving, Special Events and Institutional Giving programs. She has more than 10 years of fundraising, marketing, and development experience working in social services and nonprofit settings, combined with an extensive background in communications and special event management. Prior to joining Learning Rights Law Center. 

 

Azra served as Associate Director of Development at Lamp Community, where she managed the Agency’s dynamic Annual Giving program. She also served as Community Development Manager for Step Up on Second, where she led the Agency’s communications and marketing efforts.

 

Azra attended California State University where she studied Communications Design and she enjoys spending her free time volunteering for various local and national nonprofits dedicated to human and animal rights issues.

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Vanessa Vanegas

Technology & Administrative Coordinator

 

E: vanessav@learningrights.org

Vanessa Vanegas started with Learning Rights in June 2011. Lucie Hinden, a Learning Rights Volunteer who was honored at the LRLC Cause for Celebration 2011 recommended Vanessa.

 

Being a graduate from ITT-Technical Institute and majoring in Computer Networking Systems with specialization in Computer Repair.

 

Vanessa offers hands on technical support for Learning Rights.

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M. Cecilia Ortiz

Trainer, Beginning TIGER East LA & Interpreter

 

E: cecilia@learningrights.org

Evelyn Martinez

UCLA Law School Public Service Fellow

 

 

Cecilia is a former client of the Learning Rights Project at Western Law Center for Disability Rights (now Disability Rights Legal Center - DRLC).

 

Cecilia graduated from the Southern California School of Interpretation in 2004. From 2005 until 2009, she worked for DRLC's Education Advocacy Program as a Spanish interpreter, where her duties included assisting with intakes, attending IEP meetings and making telephone calls to facilitate attorney-client communication. She also translated the Fifth Edition of DRLC's Special Education Manual.In 2008,

 

Cecilia received training through the USC Special Education Advocacy Training Project (SEAT) taught by Janeen Steel and Ines Kuperschmit. Cecilia has worked with Learning Rights Law Center as a Spanish interpreter since the organization began in 2005. She has attended IEP meetings, parent meetings, workshops and translated the First Edition of Learning Rights' Special Education Toolkit.

Evelyn Yunuen Martinez was born in Pacoima, California to two undocumented parents. Her love for educational equity springs from growing up in an impoverished neighborhood and seeing how access to an education can change a person’s life. Evelyn believes that everyone deserves to have a high-quality education and her goal is to ensure all students have to this regardless of their race, socio-economic class or learning needs. While at Learning Rights, Evelyn will focus on bringing educational access to the San Fernando Valley, specifically focusing on poor immigrant communities.

 

Evelyn completed her undergraduate studies at UC Irvine majoring in Criminology and minoring in Education and Environmental Analysis. She then went on to get her Multiple Subject Teaching Credential at UC Irvine. Before enrolling in law school she worked as a Child Development Specialist assisting developmentally delayed infants. She received her law degree from UCLA Law where she was enrolled in the Epstein Public Interest Law Program and the Critical Race Studies Program. While at UCLA Law she interned with Learning Rights and the ACLU and co-chaired the VAWA Clinic at CARECEN. In her spare time Evelyn loves playing with her dogs, doing Crossfit and reading.

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Dean Conklin

Loyola Law School Public Interest Fellow

 

 

Dean Conklin earned his Juris Doctor from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, where he was admitted into Loyola's Public Interest Scholar Program.  Previously, Dean earned an M.A. in sociology from Cal State, Fullerton, and a B.A. from Emerson College.  

 

While at Loyola, Dean was involved in a number of public and community service efforts, holding roles in Loyola's Public Interest Law Foundation, Student Bar Association, and the independent Los Angeles Public Interest Law Journal.  He also served as a clinical law student within Loyola's Youth Justice Education Clinic.  Upon graduating, Dean was awarded the Sande Buhai Public Interest Award, and the Board of Governors Alumni Association Award for his commitment to public service.