From the White House to the school house, the discussion around the importance of pre-kindergarten education and its long-term benefit for students has gained momentum in recent years. Earlier this year, the American Bar Association joined the conversation, with ABA President William Hubbard noting, “Education is an important issue for the bar because of our commitment to eliminate bias and enhance diversity in our profession and the justice system.”

The Joyce Preschool in Minneapolis has taken this to heart with a very simple mission through its bilingual immersion program – “provide children from diverse ethnic, linguistic, and economic backgrounds with developmentally and culturally appropriate preparation for success in school and lifelong learning.” The school is helping set children on the right track for academic success, and perhaps, improve diversity in the practice of law down the road.

Based on its own research, Joyce Preschool has made sure that 100 percent of its graduates were ready for kindergarten over the last four years, compared to just 36 percent when you look at Spanish-speaking students in Minneapolis overall and 72 percent for all students city-wide.

To support this effort, the school hosted the Barristers’ Breakfast recently, which gathered attorneys and business leaders to support education and scholarship opportunities for future students and celebrate the success of the program.

Lisa Peralta, an attorney with Robins Kaplan LLP and co-chair of the event, noted that by 2025, “a quarter of college-age students are going to be Latino,” but only 13 percent of this population today has a four-year college degree. “So it’s not surprising that the ABA says this is an acute problem,” she added. The goal, Peralta explained, is to get these diverse children into the education pipeline early so that they can continue to drive toward higher education.

“Diversity is something we all seek in our communities and in our profession – it makes for a more robust society – but diversity is not something you can just snap your fingers and create,” said event co-chair Gerry Fornwald, an attorney with Winthrop & Weinstine. “As I’ve seen from the hiring side, there just simply aren’t enough minority, particularly Latino, law students graduating from school.”

Congressman Keith Ellison, who delivered the keynote at the breakfast, noted that every day across the U.S., 6,000 Latino youth turn 18 years old, looking to contribute to society. “The fact is, [Latino youth] aspire to so much more than [earning] surviving wages. Many of them aspire to science, aspire to a legal career, aspire to a medical career. Where is the opportunity and advantage going to come into the lives of these young people? It’s going to be at places like Joyce,” he said.

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