Charisse and Nicky on Believing in Your Dreams
Charisse is a paralegal and Nicky is an IT practice support specialist in Richmond. As a teenager, Charisse remembers attorneys visiting her high school to talk with students who had an interest in legal careers. While the presentations were enlightening, no one who visited or hosted the program looked like her.
In 2014, the two realized something needed to be done.
According to Charisse, “We thought, how can we bring that type of program to Kutak Rock? We looked at urban youth and what their exposure is to law and the legal field. How can we encourage these kids to look at the legal field as a career?”
Their answer was to invite area urban youth to visit the office and speak with Kutak Rock attorneys, paralegals, and other legal professionals. The firm’s annual Law Day was born. That effort grew to include tours of Richmond courthouses, and discussions with judges and federal marshals.
Now, organizations are reaching out to them. “We have had the YMCA reach out to us saying ‘our students really enjoyed this program, we enjoyed it, and we really want to bring them back.’” Judges have contacted Nicky and Charisse, as well. “They’re excited about the program. They told us they look forward to this tour because it’s one of the few days of the year when things are positive,” says Charisse. “What we started here in this office has gone over to the court and become something they now do on a regular basis.”
Nicky admits that the last couple of years have been emotionally challenging, especially since 2017’s Law Day coincided with the violence in Charlottesville, VA, but she has a message for the kids that come through the program: It’s not just what you see on TV. “Charisse and I are from the same area as the kids. I want them to be able to say, ‘I do belong here and I can aspire to something greater than what I always see in my neighborhood or what I see on the local 6 o’clock news about my neighborhood.’
We want to make sure these kids understand that they may encounter some challenges but nothing can be a barrier unless they make it so.
And that’s another reason why Nicky and Charisse want to bring area kids into the office. “We know you’re being inundated with all this negativity right now but there are still a lot of great things out there, great opportunities for you no matter what your dream may be.
We know that they just walked out of Kutak Rock’s office believing not just in themselves, but also in their dream. We want to make sure they have somebody in their lives that’s doing that for them,” says Nicky.
“I remember growing up with classmates who didn’t have that at home. It definitely makes a difference when a kid has someone who believes in them and believes in their dream and doesn’t tell them you ‘can’t be something’ or ‘you’re only going to graduate from high school into jail or into the justice system.’ What Charisse and I hope to give these kids is that belief that there are people out here who will give you opportunities to pursue your dreams. Just don’t give up on yourself.”
Charisse agrees. “This isn’t just about checking a box or saying we did something. We genuinely care about their goals, their achievements, and it’s different when you have people who look like you.”