Northwestern Law Alum Named White House Champion of Change

December 05, 2011

Northwestern Law alum, Todd Belcore JD ’10 was recently named a White House “Champion of Change.” As part of President Obama’s “Winning the Future Initiative,” Todd was recognized for dedicating his professional life to closing the justice gap in America.

The Champions of Change event featured a national, live-streamed, online conversation among law students and faculty, public service lawyers, and Attorney General Eric Holder, which discussed what lawyers can do to close the justice gap.

Todd was one of 16 Champions who, along with Holder, fielded questions from classrooms across the nation about how to use their legal training to help secure equal access to our justice system.

Among his insights, he suggested: Immersing yourself in the underserved community, volunteering, devote whatever unique talents you have toward bolstering the capacity of legal services or community based organizations, participating in clinics and practicum, and working to cultivate a public interest network.
While this is advice that Todd has followed and continued to embrace, his long-standing commitment to public service is a result of his experiences, thus his decision and obligation to give back.

As the youngest of 4, raised by a single mother, Todd became familiar with struggle and knew what it meant to be displaced. He helped to take care of his paraplegic brother and helped his mother, who worked extremely hard to provide for their family.

“All of my experiences have given me firsthand experience in how many hurdles there are for the poor, disabled, and disenfranchised,” said Todd. “I recognized early that I had to do something about these things, which is why I chose to become a public service lawyer.”

Through this outreach work and civic involvement in college, he recognized the importance of policy change when it came to helping the underserved. As a result he started taking political science classes and began learning how to persuade those in power to effect positive change.

Todd’s desire to hone that power to promote positive transformation led him to enroll at Northwestern Law. While at the Law School, Todd was President of the Student Bar Association, the recipient of the Wigmore Key, the President of Student Effort to Rejuvenate Volunteering (SERV), and an active participant in the Bluhm Legal Clinic.

He also volunteered hundreds of hours to mentoring and tutoring low-income youth of color, providing legal assistance to victims of Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi, registering people to vote, and assisting clients with housing and other legal issues.

In his third year of law school, Todd was selected, from all law students in the nation, as the winner of the national PSLawNet Pro Bono Publico Award for his commitment to public interest issues. Also, of all the public interest attorneys in Chicago, Todd was recently awarded the Chicago Bar Foundation Anderson Fellowship, for his commitment to public interest, academic achievement, and outstanding character and integrity.

He credits his success to his faith and his mother’s unwavering support.

“It’s one thing to dedicate your life to service, but for someone to recognize your work, especially the White House, is an amazing honor,” said Todd. “It means more to me than anything in the world for people to appreciate that there isn’t a day that I wake up that I’m not fighting on behalf of people in need.”

Currently Todd works as an Equal Justice Works Fellow at the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law. His fellowship project focuses on assisting those with criminal record overcome the stigma and discrimination associated with a conviction. Through education, litigation and legislation, he is working to increase ex-offenders access to occupational licenses and gainful employment. Another project that Belcore is involved with is the Chicago International Social Change Film Festival which serves as a forum for communities, filmmakers and organizations to use film as a vehicle to heighten public consciousness and promote direct action.