For Carole S. Rendon, giving back to the community has been a lifelong commitment.
Besides being active on the board at Park Synagogue and having served on numerous other boards in the legal community, Rendon has tutored in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District for many years.
Noting that she started tutoring while working as First Assistant U.S. Attorney and continued as U.S. Attorney, Rendon said the Cleveland Federal Executive Board had a program that encouraged federal employees to tutor in local schools.
Her initial tutee was a first grader at Memorial Elementary School who Rendon met on Wednesday mornings for five years.
“I really developed a wonderful bond with her and just enjoyed being part of a young person’s life and giving her a little bit of one-on-one time,” Rendon said. “And it was super easy because I was just reading to her and she was reading to me – it was all about improving reading skills.”
After she left her job in the federal government in 2017, Rendon joined the partnership at BakerHostetler LLP in Cleveland.
The Cleveland-headquartered law firm has a similar program at Orchard Elementary School, which also is part of the Cleveland Metropolitan School system, where Rendon now tutors students in third grade in reading every other Wednesday.
“Wednesdays must be the magic day,” Rendon said with a laugh. “We have students assigned to us and we do the exact same thing. We read to them, they read to us, we work on sight words and it’s just all about helping give the students some one-on-one time, which they really need to improve their reading skills.”
Outside of tutoring, Rendon is also involved in the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association’s 3Rs program teaching high school students about rights, responsibilities and realities. In the past, she has taught the 3Rs with her husband Michael, who also is a lawyer.
“We teach basic constitutional law,” Rendon explained. “The basics of the constitution: what it means, what your first amendment rights are, what your fifth amendment rights are – that type of programming. It’s really interesting and really fun.”
Rendon also volunteers at Solon High School, helping with the music program, speech and debate team and its mock trial team. A mother of three, Rendon’s youngest son, Seth, is a student at the high school.
Rendon believes everybody has the ability to give back to their community in a variety of ways.
“But I think that professionals, and especially legal professionals, have the ability to do a lot, both in terms of providing pro bono legal services and educational programming in the community, but also providing leadership and guidance,” Rendon said. “The legal profession here in Cleveland is one of the real pillars of our community.”
She often volunteers to speak through the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association and the Federal Bar Association and said her goal is to bring educational programs to the legal community and beyond.
Rendon said her family has a long history of commitment to the community as a whole. Talking about her mother Harriet Fader, Rendon said, in her retirement she began coaching female executives in the nonprofit world, and now at 82 years old she is still active on boards.
“She’s one of those people who just never says no,” Rendon added. “She always has time. She always has energy. She is always willing to give to a cause that she cares about.”
Rendon hopes to instill similar values in her three sons.
Her oldest Daniel, 30, is an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the District of Columbia and “totally engaged in the same sort of commitment to the justice system that always spoke to my heart,” she explained. Her middle son Alex, 28, is getting a Ph.D. in education and technology at the University of Michigan.
“(He) is really focused on education as the way to help end poverty in America,” Rendon added.
Judaism has informed every aspect of Rendon’s life.
“It’s not just a religion that you go to synagogue and practice or you keep kosher in your home and practice,” she said. “It’s a religion that informs the way that you live and the way that you see the world.”
The attorney believes it’s her job to make the world a better place today than it was yesterday, and a better place tomorrow than it is today.
“I do think that whole sense of tikkun olam has really informed how I view my job here as a person,” Rendon said. “That might be my job as a lawyer, my job as a wife, my job as a mother, my job as a daughter, my job as a friend. It informs my daily life.”
Describing her family as the most important part of her life, Rendon said everything else is secondary to that.
“That’s really been the center piece of my life and that came directly from my parents,” Rendon said. “The family first adage has truly been my guidepost.”