When Lilly Cavanaugh accepted the invitation to join the Ohio Access to Justice Foundation’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee, she was already familiar with the Foundation’s work. As Executive Director of the Ohio Latino Affairs Commission, Cavanaugh understood the value of access to civil legal services, particularly for new Americans, and the role the Foundation plays in funding and supporting access to justice.

Cavanaugh joined the committee ready to offer the perspective of Ohio’s diverse Latino community, a role she’s well-qualified for after 15 years at the helm of the Ohio Latino Affairs Commission.

“Some Latinos are new arrivals, but many people have lived here for years,” she said. “There’s a whole landscape of people that are important to consider when talking about the work the Foundation does.”

According to Cavanaugh, Ohio’s Latino population has doubled since 2000, with close to 500,000 Latinos currently living in the state. At an average age of 26, the Latino population is ten years younger than the average age of most Ohioans. More than 20,000 Latino-owned businesses positively contribute to Ohio’s economy, and 21 Latino elected officials serve at all levels of government.

At the Ohio Latino Affairs Commission, a state agency since 1977, Cavanaugh’s job is to advise the governor and legislature on issues affecting Latinos, connect Latino communities around the state, and build Latino-serving community organizations. The Commission focuses on supporting Latinos through health initiatives, access to education, workforce and economic development, and diversity and inclusion.

By joining the Foundation’s DEI committee, Cavanaugh supports both the Foundation’s goals and the Commission’s. She brings knowledge and experience working in multicultural environments that help inform the committee’s work to improve DEI in Ohio’s civil justice system. For new Americans who may be unfamiliar with the legal system, or who lack English language skills, navigating the legal system can be particularly challenging. “They may simply not be sure where to turn for guidance,” Cavanaugh said.

Just as Cavanaugh hopes to educate committee members about Ohio’s Latino community, she’s also eager to learn from other committee members and the Foundation’s staff.

“The value for me is serving as a bridge and a connector between this committee and the communities we aim to serve,” Cavanaugh said. “It is an honor to have a seat at the table and bring the perspective of Latinos and ethnic minorities in Ohio to the Foundation. I feel that our futures are very much intertwined.”

The Ohio Access to Justice Foundation is leading the statewide effort to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion in civil legal services. A gift to the Foundation supports this work.