Friday, April 24, 2009
Lawyer: CNM Inspired Me
By Martin Salazar
Journal Staff Writer
The odds were stacked high against Derrick Lente, a kid from Sandia and Isleta pueblos who struggled with academics.
After graduating from Bernalillo High in 1997, he knew he wasn't quite ready to go to a university. But he also wasn't ready to throw in the towel on his education.
He said he "stumbled" onto what is now Central New Mexico Community College and found his footing.
Amid his remedial-class load, Lente said, he developed the tools to succeed in the world of academics. Perhaps more important, he credits the college with giving him the confidence that enabled him to earn undergraduate and law degrees from the University of New Mexico.
A little more than a decade since he walked the halls of what was then called Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute, Lente will be keynote speaker at the school's graduation ceremony this evening. CNM expects 350 students to walk the line. The ceremony will begin at 6 p.m. at UNM's Johnson Center.
"The ability that (CNM) gave to me to have confidence in myself that maybe I can do college level work was inspiring, and I believe it's what led me on to other things I did in my life," Lente said.
Today, Lente teaches an Indian law class at UNM; owns his own business, Lente & Associates, and is president of Spherion, a recruiting and staffing company.
He notes that he grew up in a place where going to college wasn't expected. Never in his wildest dreams would he have thought going to law school was an option. Luckily, he said, there were a few people in his community who helped him think outside the box and opened his eyes to the possibilities.
"If you would have told me 11 years ago that I would have been invited back to speak at the graduation ceremony, I would have never believed it," Lente said. He said CNM set him on the path toward his success by teaching him that he was as smart as anybody else and that just because he came from a reservation or a public school, didn't mean he couldn't succeed.
"I'm going to share with them my story of being an uncertain person out of high school that the uncertainty of life can appear daunting and sometimes the uncertainty, the naysayers and so forth can make you just want to give up, quit," Lente said.
While attending law school, Lente was raising his daughter. For three years, he said, he survived on three hours of sleep a night.
He said many of the graduates taking part in the ceremony have similar life stories, yet they had the courage and drive to push forward.
"It was for my people, the pueblo people that I come from and most importantly my daughter to give her the example that, yes, it is possible for someone to come from the reservation, from the public schools, from being unprepared to really doing it," Lente said. "And so it was with that own challenge to myself that I kept it up."