One part supervisor, one part teacher, one part I-want-to-be-like-her-someday inspiration.
Ramona Sullivan was all that — and then some — to then-UI law student and now-Champaign assistant city attorney Kathryn Cataldo in the mid-2010s.
“My first real ‘legal job’ was as a volunteer student intern at Land of Lincoln Legal Aid during the summer after my first year of law school,” Cataldo says of what’s now known as the John Phipps Community Law Center.
“It was my first experience being around working attorneys and functioning in a law office. Providing access to justice through the legal system was already firm in my heart — still is — and I wanted to learn as much as I could. Land of Lincoln assigned each of us student interns a one-on-one supervisor for the summer.
“My supervisor, Ramona Sullivan, showed me how to be an attorney for all the right reasons and in all the right ways. I saw her interact with every client with respect, kindness and grace. She helped just by being there for people going through their worst days.
“She is a leader by example on how to be a good attorney, while also retaining goodness at heart. I am so glad that my first imprint of what it means to be an attorney was Ramona.”
Cataldo liked C-U so much, she decided to stick around after law school, getting to experience a few of her favorite haunts many times more.
Among them: Cafe Kopi, where “I have spent maybe an equal number of hours as I spent in the library as a student. Kopi just lets you be who you are, while serving up some of the best café drinks in the city.
“I spent many long hours at their tables, working my way through their whole collection of hot teas — the Russian Caravan is a favorite — while reading for class, studying for finals, and then finally, studying for the bar exam.
“I love the local artwork, fresh food and funky spirit. I’m so glad that Kopi has been a place that could be a second home for me during the stressful hours of studying, and the joyful hours of spending time with friends.
“Finally, the dog rescue community of Champaign-Urbana is stellar and dear to my heart, starting when I was a student fostering senior dogs one by one in my co-op. You will not meet a better, kinder, more giving group of people than those who are willing to drop everything to save a life.
“We have several rescues in our home now. Every day during ‘lockdown,’ the pups go outside in the early afternoon to greet a group of young children who pass right by our home and fence on a walk to the nearby playground.
“Of course, a dog’s greeting is a few moments of barking. And without fail, every day, the children bark back.”