Attorney dedicates time to helping young people find success in life

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(l)-Attorney Scott Keller of Warner Norcross and Judd. (r)-Michael Daniels, Executive Director of School-to-Career Progressions

PHOTO OF SCOTT KELLER COURTESY OF WARNER NORCROSS AND JUDD, PHOTO OF MICHAEL DANIELS BY CYNTHIA PRICE, LEGAL NEWS

by Cynthia Price
Legal News

Societal concern about the future of youth spans the ages and every type of geographical and political boundary, but it is often hard to know what to do for young people encountering difficulties, and to measure whether programs designed to help are actually effective.

School-to-Career Progressions (S2C) faces that challenge every day. The non-profit has gone through trial-and-error over its 13-year history, but S2C seems to have found a model that works.
Warner, Norcross and Judd Partner R. Scott Keller can say he has helped nearly every step of the way.

Having served on the board for ten of those 13 years, Keller has now been elected secretary. Executive Director Michael Daniels says he has been grateful for the variety of ways Keller has contributed: as an attorney, providing board governance issues and making sure documentation is correct; as a father, advice about what might be effective with teenagers; as a community member, connections and fund-raising assistance. “Scott donating his time and talent over the years has been greatly appreciated,” Daniels says.

Keller chairs Warner Norcross’s Technology and Intellectual Property Group. Since 1984, he has focused his IP practice on Internet law, litigation trademarks, copyrights, domain names, and unfair competition.

Originally from Buffalo New York, Keller graduated summa cum laude from Eisenhower College in Seneca Falls, a liberal arts school named after President Dwight D. Eisenhower which closed its doors in 1983. He went on to  Syracuse University, graduating summa cum laude with his Juris Doctor degree.

After graduation, Keller joined a large law firm in Cleveland, then moved to this area to join Warner Norcross in 1998. “I’m happy there,” he says.

He has published on IP law over the years, including a 2004 article called “Fame, But Not Fortune, the State of Federal Trademark Dilution Law in the United States.”

Keller has a long and distinguished history both with the American Bar Association, serving on a number of subcommittees related the ABA Intellectual Property Law Section, such as Fair Use, Federal Trademark Legislation (on which he still serves), and Inherent Distinctiveness; and with the International Trademark Association on similar committees, including most recently Legislation and Regulation.

Another community involvement  is as president of the board of directors of Circle Theatre. “I was always a theater nut,” he comments.

As far as why he chose to serve S2C, Keller says, “Basically, I was drawn to the opportunity to work with a program that was going to help at-risk youth, look at the challenges they face at home and in the schools and give them a better chance.”

S2C began as an offshoot of Cascade Engineering’s Welfare-To-Career Program. The well-known and pioneering initiative of company founder Fred Keller involved Cascade hiring and working closely with welfare recipients, and it boasts an 80% retention rate among those employees.

Cascade turned to Michael Daniels to explore whether a similar community-based model could help at-risk youth.

Fred Keller, still chair of the School-to-Career Progressions board, is not related to Scott Keller, who comments, “I’d be proud to call him a relative.”

S2C currently derives over half of its participants from the Diversion Program of the 17th Circuit Court, through Judge Patricia Gardner, funded by the Department of Human Services Bureau of Juvenile Justice. (Most of the other S2C participants come directly from parents concerned about their children.) Juvenile offenders aged 12 to 16 who have committed minor infractions can choose S2C or other community programs rather than appear in court.

Judge Gardner monitors the program closely, and Daniels gives her tremendous kudos. “She has championed this program through obstacles with the court system that no one else would do,” he says.
S2C was the primary organization originally implementing the diversion program, which was intended to address the problems of Disproportionate Minority Contact. When the Diversion Program began in 2007, African-Americans accounted for 51.26% of juvenile arrests (and only 10.3% of Kent County population).

The organization developed what Scott Keller calls Success Keys, which include the Success Center, a physical environment held after school at Hope Reformed Church, which rents space at a low rate to S2C; Success Coaches, adult staff and volunteers who interact with the young people; and the Success Plan, which helps the youth explore their strengths and aptitudes, including career preference testing, and allows them to set goals over time. S2C also helps parents and guardians acquire skills, and may refer the teens to one-on-one counseling services.

But those are only part of the solution. “Listen,” Daniels says, “there’s no success without relationships. Once we have the relationships and they trust us, they’re able to receive advice and let us help them figure out a plan. Everything is based upon relationships.”

Keller observes, “Even for non at-risk kids it would be beneficial. It’s a 90-day program, and hopefully at the end it’s started to point them in a better direction.”

According to Judge Gardner, writing in the Spring 2012 Connections publication of the Michigan Courts, the program has been a resounding success. “Since we started this program... the court diversion rate for minority youths is now nearly the same as for white youths – a very significant accomplishment. Nearly 500 juveniles have been diverted... Of those who successfully completed the program, nearly 90% were not referred by police to the court within one year.”

Keller intends to remain involved with S2C. He says with a laugh, “My stay at this point is indefinite.”