Firm Employs, Puts Kids Through School
by Molly Osberg
Internships, college money puts a twinkle in their eyes.
by Molly Osberg
Rothgerber Johnson & Lyons LLP decided to take a chance and do something worthwhile for the community when they got involved with Denver Kids, Inc. in 1997. It was a chance that paid off handsomely, for the firm and the at-risk kids who benefited directly from working at the firm.
Rothgerber Johnson & Lyons, through its partnership with Denver Kids, Inc., gives at-risk kids a taste of the real world, provides them with some practical experience, and ultimately prepares them to attend college. The firm’s management loved the idea and thought it might be a worthwhile endeavor. Human Resources Director Deanna Viles helped spearhead their involvement and has watched the program grow over the years.
"We hired our first Denver Kid in September 1997, and have since hired five more," Viles said. "All were hired on a part-time basis so they could come to work after school. Most have turned out to be excellent employees. Three of our ‘kids’ are still employed by the firm and two of those are now enrolled in college."
Anita Bañuelos has been with the Rothgerber firm since November 1997, almost since the beginning of its involvement with Denver Kids. Bañuelos graduated from West High School in 1999 and now attends Metropolitan State College. She is still employed by the firm as an "alumni" of Denver Kids. Bañuelos was the first recipient of the Rothgerber Johnson & Lyons LLP Scholarship Award, which was established in 1999 specifically for Denver Kids working at the firm. It has helped subsidize her tuition while she attends college.
Lucy Solis joined the firm in March 1999 and works part-time as a file clerk. Solis graduated from East High School in May 2001. She was the second recipient of the firm’s scholarship award. Solis attends Metropolitan State College and hopes to transfer to University of Northern Colorado in Greeley to complete her degree in education. She would like to explore a teaching career at the elementary or high school level.
Hired in February 2000, Donna Lyons is the firm’s newest participant. She works part-time as a clerk in the Services Department. She graduated in December from Colorado High School of Denver and plans to attend Metropolitan State College on a part-time basis and eventually wants to attend a four-year university where she can live on campus and have the full college experience. Lyons was the third recipient of the firm’s scholarship award and is grateful to the firm for its ongoing support.
"I really appreciate the chance to work at RJ&L and I’m honored to receive this scholarship. It will go a long way toward helping me get through school," Lyons said.
Denver Kids, Inc. has been a turning point for hundreds of Denver-area youth and has helped steer them in a positive direction at a critical point in their lives. The employment component is especially important because it focuses on real world experience.
"Besides filling an employment need, it’s been rewarding to watch these students mature, finish high school and pursue their dreams of going to college," Viles said. "They often start shy and quiet, maybe a little overwhelmed by their new environment. But as time goes on, it’s amazing how they grow into valued members of their departments and become more comfortable with themselves and their surroundings. We are again looking at where we can use another Denver Kid, and plan to continue our participation with Denver Kids in the future."
After the success of the Denver Kids partnership, Rothgerber Johnson & Lyons started another program in the summer of 2001. Working with officials from Colorado State University, the firm has committed to a new program designed to help minority students pursue an education and career in a law-related field. The firm will give $20,000 to fund the "Diversity in Law" program, a new scholarship that will be distributed over a four-year period to provide support to participating students from high schools along the Front Range. Selected minority students will be supported with scholarship funds, given an academic mentor and will participate in various programs to support their education. Scholarship recipients will also be given an opportunity to work at the Rothgerber firm during the summer so they can gain exposure to the legal profession.