Not everyone learns the same way. Janeen Steel knows this, but it took her years to find out. Like a lot of people Janeen went through the public school system, but didn’t feel connected to the education she received. She still had trouble expressing herself, and her dreams of being a writer were going nowhere as others couldn’t understand her work. At the age of 27 she was depressed and self destructive, and knew her life had to change.
It was while enrolled in a class at a community college that Janeen’s whole world turned around. A teacher recognized her learning difficulties for what they really were, learning disabilities. Once Janeen knew what she was dealing with, she could learn not only how to cope, but how to excel. Learning became her passion, and her belief that everyone is entitled to do so, became her purpose.
In 1996 Janeen was admitted to UCLA School of Law and in 1998 received the UCLA La Raza Alumni Association Cesar Chavez Summer Fellowship, to write the Learning Rights Manual. Aimed at helping parents of K-12 students with disabilities, the manual helped families navigate the special education system. In 2003, Janeen met Ines Kuperschmit, a recipient of the prestigious Skadden Fellowship, who was working at Public Counsel as an advocate for the education and mental health rights of youth detained in Los Angeles County juvenile halls. Their shared vision led to the formation of the Learning Rights Law Center in 2005, an independent legal services non-profit organization in Southern California, whose sole mission is the educational rights of all students.