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SOUTH ALUMNUS RECEIVES BOETTCHER FOUNDATION ALUMNI RECOGNITION AWARD
Since its inception in 1952, the Boettcher Foundation Scholarship has benefited thousands of deserving scholars, who have used the full-time endowment to advance their educational careers and in turn, their futures.
In District 60, we have been fortunate to see a host of Boettcher Scholars rise to the top of their chosen field, whether that be business, law, health care or another arena.
One of our Boettcher Scholars, South Class of 1998 member Justin Kidd, is the 2022 recipient of the Boettcher Foundation’s Alumni Recognition Award, given to those who embody the Foundation’s ethos of service, leadership, and giving back to others.
He was nominated for the award by his Boettcher Scholar peers.
“Justin’s leadership in ensuring equitable access to justice, and mentoring a new generation of talented, service-oriented individuals has gone above and beyond in demonstrating Boettcher’s commitment to giving back community leadership, and service,” said a spokesperson from the Foundation.
After graduating from South, Mr. Kidd used the Boettcher Scholarship to attend the University of Denver, where he majored in Spanish language and International Studies, with minors in French language and leadership.
While an undergrad, Mr. Kidd studied or interned in France, Spain, Bosnia, and Washington DC. Upon graduation, he moved to Pittsburgh, where he completed a Coro Fellowship in Civic Leadership, and then a Netzer Fellowship for the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, working on health workforce issues.
While working on his fellowship, Mr. Kidd attended night school at Carnegie Mellon University, where he earned a Masters in Public Management. He later attended law school at the University of California-Berkley.
With his law degree and license in hand, Mr. Kidd was selected as an Honors Attorney for the Oregon Department of Justice, where he served as an Assistant Attorney General for more than a decade. In that role, he worked as a trial attorney representing the state in cases ranging from small claims to multimillion-dollar jury trials and complex class action litigation.
In 2021, Governor Kate Brown appointed Mr. Kidd as the Justice of the Peace (Justice Court Judge) for Marion County, Oregon, where he serves today.
As Justice of the Peace, Mr. Kidd has the authority to hear misdemeanor cases, violations, landlord-tenant cases, and civil disputes of $10,000 or less.
While in District 60, Mr. Kidd said the drama courses he took at South, and participation in the Summer Musical, proved to have a profound impact on his life.
“I came into it a shy, weird kid, and I left it an extroverted -- but still weird -- theater kid,” he said. “Actually, I think the Summer Musical – and drama programs in general – are great training for being a lawyer. When you’re a trial lawyer, you’re actually putting on a tiny play for an audience of 12 people. You write the script by choosing what facts you’ll present; you do you casting by deciding which witnesses are going to talk about which facts; and you get to sum it all up in an Eleventh Hour number when you get to deliver the closing argument.
“And you gotta pitch that closing argument with the right amount of energy and conviction. All those plays and musicals I did in D60 – whether it was being the Captain in the ‘HMS Pinafore’ or the Narrator in ‘Into the Woods’ –really gave me the confidence to feel comfortable in my own skin, get in front of an audience, and to pitch a really good argument.”
Mr. Kidd also found “quiz bowl” activities in middle and high school to be fine preparation for a career in law.
“In middle school, we participated in the National Academic League (NAL), though other students sometimes called it Nerds and Losers. In high school, I was part of the Science Bowl and Knowledge Bowl teams that won state championships. Those organizations gave a place for this intensely nerdy kid to feel comfortable being smart and flexing those academic muscles. It was a place where being smart was actually cool.
“And later in my academic career, those quiz bowl events gave me confidence that I had the academic firepower to compete in really rigorous programs like Berkeley Law.”
With a love for both flexing both his academic and performance muscle, Mr. Kidd on one memorable occasion saw the two worlds nearly collide.
“The State Science Bowl tournament was scheduled in Denver the same day as opening night of the Spring Musical in Pueblo,” he explained. “We figured the events would not conflict because we thought we’d be done with Science Bowl early in the day. But in the Science Bowl, you keep playing head-on matches until you lose. And we kept winning, and winning. And by 5 p.m., we had won the whole tournament.
“We were out of time and couldn’t even stay for the awards ceremony. So our coach, Mr. Benfield, loaded us into a van and hightailed it back to Pueblo because I was supposed to solo the first song in the musical, which started at 7 p.m.”
As the South bus pulled into the Arts Center parking lot, the sounds of the orchestra starting the overture could be heard.
“The drama/choir teacher, Mr. Wayne Genova, had his script in hand and was ready to stand in for me,” Mr. Kidd recalls. “But I got quickly changed into costume and made it onstage just in time. Come to think of it, that was extra good training for being a trial lawyer, because sometimes unexpected things come up just before trial, and you’re running to the courthouse, having to land on your feet while making the play look effortless and cogent for your audience of 12.”
Along with the 2022 Alumni Recognition Award comes a $1,000 grant, which Mr. Kidd donated to the Pueblo District 60 Education Foundation for designation toward the Summer Musical program.
In the life of a D60 scholar who goes on to make a notable impact in the world, the role that educators play is never understated.
Mr. Kidd said he will always be thankful to Dianne Brooks, a 7th grade Roncalli English teacher and NAL team sponsor.
“She made a space for nerdy kids to feel normal and welcome,” Mr. Kidd said. “Her classroom was my refuge room – a safe place where I could just be my nerdy self. I spent a lot of lunches in Ms. Brooks’ room, volunteering on the yearbook and the school newspaper. I am so thankful for the support and safe harbor that she offered.
“One thing I really appreciate is that she fought to make sure that the school treated NAL kids with as much respect as the sports teams received. And she took us to Denver’s Casa Bonita as part of the NAL interstate playoffs. To take a busload of middle schoolers to Casa Bonita is the mark of a fearless teacher.”
Mr. Kidd also expressed his gratitude to South educator Wayne Genova, who along with Donna Stinchcomb directed the Summer Musical.
“That program literally changed my life, in that it gave me confidence I never had before,” Mr. Kidd said.
Although Mr. Kidd has experienced tremendous success in the field of law, law was not his first post-high school choice.
“When I came out of high school, I enrolled in School of Mines because it was the ‘hardest’ school, and I felt compelled to conquer ‘hard things,’” he said. “I did great there academically, but I was flat-out miserable. Mid-year I admitted to myself I wasn’t having fun. In fact, I decided I would rather stick a fork in my eye than spend the next 40 years deciphering differential equations.”
With support from the Boettcher Foundation, Mr. Kidd transferred to the University of Denver to complete his undergraduate degree.
“I was a late decider for law school,” he explained. “I worked in foundations and civic engagement for a couple of years, and then got some advice that I would need a ‘terminal degree’ in order to move up in that world. I enrolled in law school to get that terminal degree, thinking I would return to nonprofit management.
“But in law school, I discovered how much I loved trials. I love people. I love telling stories and crafting narratives for people. I love putting on the tiny play that is a trial. And I loved the intellectual game of it all.”
In his free time, Mr. Kidd has served as a foster and adoptive parent. His passion is making life better for foster children, and he works with several Oregon-based organizations dedicated to that cause: a commendable fact that contributed to his receipt of the Boettcher Foundation’s Alumni Recognition Award.
A true Puebloan at heart, Mr. Kidd remains close to his hometown.
“I still order green chile from Musso’s and potica from Mauro Farms. And I return to visit, from time to time, for the Chile and Frijoles Festival. For what it’s worth, Salem feels a lot like Pueblo. It’s about the same size, has a significant Hispanic community, has strong agricultural roots, a significant blue-collar presence, and they’re both really great places to raise a family.
“I think that’s part of why I feel comfortable here. I gotta say, though, that I do love the fact that it almost never snows here. I think I’m done with winter. On the other hand, I really miss summer nights at the Mesa Drive-in. We don’t have that in Salem.”
If there is one piece of advice Mr. Kidd would offer to current scholars, it’s that the path to a successful future begins now.
“Seek out challenges in high school. If you take advantage of the opportunities available at D60, you can have almost any academic career you want. When I was at South, the District offered so many Honors and AP courses that I basically completed two years of college credit while I was still in high school. Completing all those prerequisites not only gave me a solid academic base for undergrad, but it also allowed me academic flexibility to do some pretty cool things, like studying abroad, and interning in France and Bosnia and Washington DC.
“At that time, the honors curriculum at South was so challenging and rich that I worked harder there than I did in undergrad. But you have to be proactive in seeking out those opportunities. Find the hard courses. Find your mentors. Figure out what both feeds and challenges you. And figure out what brings you joy. I think we’re happiest when we find that unique combination of things that both challenges us and feeds us, so seek that out.”
For those scholars eyeing law school as a future educational move, Mr. Kidd said he would love to serve as a mentor.
“Those who want to talk about the pros and cons of law school should feel free to email me at email@example.com. I would be more than happy to do a zoom chat to talk it out.”
And for the next generation of Boettcher Scholars, Mr. Kidd offers this advice.
“You do not have to do ‘the next hard thing’ simply because you are capable of doing ‘the next hard thing,’” he said. “A lot of high-achieving people like Boettcher Scholars are accustomed to doing the ‘next hard thing’ simply out of habit, so they get stuck on this conveyor belt of prestigious, difficult and joyless things.
“And so a lot of high-achieving undergrads feel like they need to go directly to law school or medical school just because it’s a difficult and prestigious thing to do — not because they think the practice will bring them joy. A few years later, and a couple hundred thousand dollars poorer, they discover they’d rather stick a fork in their eye than attend another deposition. Reject the conveyor belt. It’s much smarter to take a gap year or two before graduate school. The time and space will help you determine if you really want to enter the profession, or if you’re just doing it because it’s the next ‘hard thing.’”