Firm Instrumental in Motivating Otto Mendez' Return to School

I have been treated so well in this place. My self-esteem has grown because of the way I am treated by the partners," says Otto Mendez, a file clerk at Rose, Klein & Marias LLP. That improved self-esteem led him to evening classes at Los Angeles High School about two and a half years ago. He graduated in June as president of his class and received a scholarship from the school at that time. He was, he says, surprised and honored that four of the RK&M partners cared enough about him to attend his graduation. In his commencement speech, he talked about the help he had received from the firm's partners.

Otto came to the U.S. from Guatemala to join his parents. He came, as many do, he says, "to find a better economic situation" than was available in his native country. He arrived one year short of graduation from a Guatemalan school, similar to a U.S. high school. After arriving in Los Angeles, Otto attended adult school for about a month, but dropped out because he was not a good student and felt it was more important to find a job. He learned English, he says, on the street and on the job. "I've always had a good work ethic," he says.

He began working at RK&M more than 12 years ago and it has, he says, made a difference in his life. "Here, they made me realize that I'm a valuable person to society. I doubted that anybody else had been in situations like I had. The partners saw something in me that I didn't realize I had. Maybe that's why they are so successful as attorneys. They really care about their employees, their clients and the community in general. They really look to help the community."

Otto's transformation began simply enough by reading newspapers. "I'd read the sports page and the editorials and I just became an avid reader. I started reading books about psychology and philosophy and self-esteem. Reading the books about self-esteem made me want to better my education."

Otto was awarded the school scholarship based on an essay he had written and that scholarship was matched by one from the firm, says Otto, who now attends Glendale Community College. "It's a little bit hard," he says.

His goal is to master the English language. He's learned, he says, to set high standards, "even if it's not exactly where you want to go. You have to put in the effort to accomplish something."

Christina, his wife of 15 years, has been very supportive of his return to school. The couple has three children. The oldest, a boy, is 14 and just entering high school, where his grades are continuing to improve. Their nine-year-old daughter is in a gifted class and the youngest boy is just two. "At one point, I was thinking of dropping out of school and Christina encouraged me to continue." He's glad that she did and that everyone at RK&M was so supportive as well.

"I consider this a very, very good place to work. I've been treated way beyond what I would consider acceptable."

Pressed about what he would like to do in the future, he admits that he would like to become a stockbroker. But for now, he is pleased with having graduated from high school and having accomplished that goal.

"My parents attended my graduation. They never expected to attend a son's graduation. They were so proud, they cried."

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