2013 Black Excellence Awards Honoree Shelia Hill-Roberts

March 15, 2013
Shelia Hill-Roberts Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee

Shelia Hill-Roberts
Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee

 Special Honorees: Child and Youth Advocate

Growing up in the south just before the civil rights movement took hold, Shelia Hill-Roberts remembers a time when the African American community did not have the same rights as their white counterparts.

“Even as a young child, I knew something was wrong with what I’d been seeing in the segregated south,” Shelia said. “When I encountered some of this, I knew these kinds of injustices had to be fought.”

Shelia, who moved from Louisiana to Milwaukee at age 9, said those early experiences were a springboard toward a career in law that she readily admits has been richly satisfying and, at the same time, challenging.

As chief staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society’s Guardian ad Litem division, Shelia leads a team of professionals who annually represent the interests of thousands of Milwaukee County children in family court matters.

Shelia and her team tackle a number of weighty issues, including parents who are sometimes addicted to drugs and suffer from alcoholism. Some of the children have suffered physical, mental and emotional trauma from the adverse circumstances they have endured.

“Guardian ad Litem is a highly complex, distinct legal specialty,” Shelia said. “It’s not for the faint of heart. When it comes to custody issues, there is definitely a balancing act. But the overall concern is child safety. It’s a very delicate process.”

Shelia’s foray into the legal profession can be traced back to Hamilton High School on Milwaukee’s south side. Prior to graduating, she had an opportunity to take preliminary law courses and quickly learned she enjoyed and appreciated aspects of the profession.

For a period of time, Shelia left the Milwaukee area, graduating from Howard University in Washington, D.C., with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in political science. She returned to attend Marquette University’s law school, eventually earning a juris doctorate.

Outside of the Legal Aid Society, Shelia volunteers by offering pro bono assistance on legal cases, as time permits, and serves on the State Bar of Wisconsin. She also volunteers some of her time by working with inmates at the Milwaukee County Jail.

Additionally, Shelia has been a member of New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church on the city’s north side for more than 30 years and has served in a variety of capacities within her congregation over the years.

“As a child, my parents taught me to be an example in how I live and present myself to others, and I have tried to follow their advice,” Shelia said. “With the kids I encounter, I encourage them to strive for the highest in everything they do. If they get a good education, for example, they can get out of an impoverished lifestyle. They can use it as a springboard to do great things in their lives.”

Shelia is married to Ron, her husband of 26 years. They have two children: Brandee and Caleb.