Kelly Frels

Frels, Kelly.300

Bracewell & Guiliani

Please tell us a little bit about how you first heard of CHILDREN AT RISK and how you feel children benefit from the policy work that CHILDREN AT RISK does in regards to public education reform and extended learning opportunities.

Having represented school districts as a lawyer for over 40 years, I became aware of Children at Risk’s dedication to the welfare of children. Early on in the organization’s history, the focus was more narrow, but as our society and the issues affecting the lives of children changed, Children at Risk adjusted to meet that expanded role. Over the years, I’ve met with Bob Sanborn and his staff a number of times on specific issues and have spoken at legal seminars hosted by Children at Risk.

What are your other community activities or hobbies outside of Bracewell & Guiliani, Kelly? Please tell us about your involvement with Citizen Schools.

I spend much of my time with the Center for Houston’s Future, an organization dedicated to providing independent, peer reviewed research on issues affecting the Houston region. After identifying the issues critical to the future for the region, the Center works with those who are involved in the identified area to help forge solutions and meet the challenges. Education is one of the region’s most significant challenges, so I naturally gravitated to Citizen Schools whose programs are designed to most directly address the needs in a positive way. The fact that Citizen Schools’ Board is comprised of the next generation of Houston’s leaders who are engaged in “this critical issue” is also an attraction. We must transfer this caring to our next generation of leaders.

What has been your favorite accomplishment in your work to better the lives of youth?

When I graduated from law school, some of my friends urged me to join advocacy groups to affect change in our schools. Instead, I chose to work within the system as a school district lawyer to bring constructive change from within. My work on the desegregation of the Houston Independent School District, especially the creation of the Magnet School Program to replace pairing and provide quality, integrated integration, I hope that i have achieved some of that goals. Doing the creative legal work to establish the Houston Community College System and to serve as its counsel for years, was hugely rewarding.

Briefly explain why you care so much about public education and extended learning time.

Educating our children and providing them with the tools to contribute in the future is one of our most important responsibilities as citizens. This responsibility is clearly stated in the Texas Constitution, and every sociologist who analyses our society recognizes that the education of our children is critical to the maintenance of our democratic system and our society’s future.

When you were a child, what did you dream you would be when you grew up?

I probably always thought I would be a teacher – like both my parents. I secured a teaching certificate and was in graduate school studying to be a government teacher when I decided I did not want to study about what lawyers did, I wanted to do what they did, so I went to law school. As it turned out, that was a great decision.

What is your favorite part of seeing the CHILDREN AT RISK’s and Citizen Schools’ mission in action?

The best part of seeing Children at Risk and Citizen Schools’ missions in action is the adults focused on helping our children meet challenges and prepare for the future. Without caring adults, our children would be left to fend for themselves, and unfortunately, even with so many who care, some children remain at risk.

What is one reason someone should give their time, effort and support to children?

It is the right thing to do because our children’s future and that of our society require that we do what is reasonably possible to provide them care and education. Care contributes hope for the future, and education provides the tools to participate and thrive in the future.

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