Paula Yensen, the executive director of United Way of Central Kane County in St. Charles, was awarded the 2013 Thomas Jefferson Award for Lifetime Achievement by The Democratic Party of McHenry County.
For more than 35 years, Yensen has been an activist for civil rights, women’s rights and social justice. As a Lansing, Mich., resident in the ’70s and ’80s, Yensen founded the Women in Poverty Task Force and served as the Title IX coordinator for the nationally recognized Project on Equal Education Rights. Yensen was also secretary of the Ingham County Women’s Commission, which founded the Lansing domestic violence shelter.
Yensen was a regional coordinator in the campaign to make Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a national holiday, and organized demonstrations in support of the Equal Rights Amendment.
Yensen helped write and distribute a divorce handbook for women.
She also taught women on welfare in the Lansing YWCA’s Step Up program.
While at Michigan State University, she led a protest march focused on the problem of sexual assault on college campuses.
According to a press release, Reclaim the Night was the largest campus demonstration since the Vietnam War, and it led the university to make improvements to security.
As a current Illinois resident, Yensen has served two terms as a village trustee in Lake in the Hills and was recently re-elected to serve a second term on the McHenry County Board. She is also a national operational volunteer for Girl Scouts USA.