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At L&B, our roots go deep in community engagement. Since our founding, we’ve had a strong tradition of giving back. Our charitable matching program matches up to $25,000 a year in contributions to local organizations. Our employees serve on nonprofit boards, providing sound financial advice to organizations stewarding the resources so crucial to their mission. And in June, we’re wrapping up the inaugural year of our partnership with Cristo Rey High School, and celebrating the amazing interns who’ve worked with us.

In August 2021, we embarked on our first year of partnership with Cristo Rey, a local high school whose enrollment is limited to economically disadvantaged youth. Cristo Rey strives to provide an excellent education at a free or low-cost price point. One of the ways they do this is through the work-study program, in which every student works five days per month at an entry-level position. Through job-sharing, partners like L&B fill one full time position, and students earn their tuition while gaining job experience. Over the past two semesters, four students have interned with us, averaging a week per month at the firm.

Our students for the current year are Dylann Alvarado, David Sanchez, Valeria Tapia and Paola Padilla. Dylann is recognized at Cristo Rey for his incredible work ethic. David says his work at Lindsay and Brownell “is helping him build new relationships and connections and important professional skills that will benefit me in the future.” Valeria says that working at L&B is “a chance to do something different than the rest of my peers and build valuable professional skills and my resume.” And Paula says, “I’ve made great relationships with the staff who are helping me prepare for my future.”

Our inspiration to become a part of the work-study program at Cristo Rey came when our People Operations team noticed that many of the candidates who were applying to the firm came from families where the parents or siblings were already accountants. In many parts of the US, accounting is a generational profession– students opt into the accounting degree because they’ve seen a relative take that path and they understand what to expect.  We realized that accounting is not often featured in the media the way that medicine or law is, and most kids don’t see accountants at work, like they might a teacher, a firefighter, a dentist, or a small business owner. Beyond the field’s low-profile reputation, it also requires a four-year degree in accounting and subsequent certifications, meaning that students are more likely to pursue it if their family has the financial resources to support them through a bachelor’s degree.

“We are hoping we can share the career with people who may not hear about it before they get to college,” says Director of People Operations Amanda Duff. “We want our students to see this as an option for themselves and tell their classmates about the experience they’ve had here,” adds HR Generalist Chloe Baird. “We have seen how impactful of a profession this can be and how successful you can be in it. We want to offer a glimpse into this career to students who are curious about it so they can make college choices aligned to their goals.”

Steve Egge, Director of the Work-Study program at Cristo Rey, confirmed that this is exactly what’s happening. “The partnership we have with Lindsay & Brownell gets our students exposed to financial literacy and planning, understanding long term goals. L&B brought up to me in January the possibility of teaching our students about the industry of financial planning and financial literacy.” But beyond the industry of accounting, Egge said that students at L&B are making powerful connections amongst the firm. “One of the things I thought was unique— all the students I spoke to spoke about how close they felt with their supervisors and the people around them. They all talked about how much the people in the office cared about them and wanted them to succeed. They all talked about Trish, and how that relationship has impacted their confidence and their self-advocacy.

Egge continued, “Yes, our students are building their resumes, getting work experiences, making contributions. But they’re also finding mentors. Mentors who can not only help them find jobs but also help them navigate life. That’s been a wonderful aspect of our partnership with L&B.”

When asked what success for the partnership would look like, Baird answers, “Our big goal is to become more creative about how we connect with our community. We want to break down systemic barriers to accounting because we feel that this is meaningful, fulfilling work, and everyone should have the chance to know about it and decide whether it’s for them.”

Samuel Johnston, who is the partnership manager for L&B, says, “Cristo Rey is preparing students from families of limited economic means to be part of the diverse workforce of tomorrow.” Johnston adds, “The work study program exposes them to potential career pathways, develops essential transferable work skills and builds confidence and aspiration so important to college and career success. When the students in this program graduate, they will have a better resume than most college seniors.”

Interested in learning more about Cristo Rey’s Work Study Program? Check out these articles from the SD Entertainer and SD Workforce.

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