Encouraging youth is now her passion
Sitting down to talk to Dorothy Richburg is like being with a friend. She’s so warm and kind, it’s easy to forget she’s one of the most influential women in the Twin Cities.
Richburg is founder and president of KCS, a Maplewood-based information technology solutions company that she and her husband Joe started 25 years ago. The company employs more than 165 people, does business in seven states, and has numerous clients, including several of Minnesota’s largest employers such as General Mills, 3M Company and Medtronic.
Richburg’s KCS has been recognized as the 2011 Black Business of the Year by the Minnesota Black Chamber of Commerce, the 2011 Supplier of the Year by the Midwest Minority Supplier Development Council (MMSDC), and the 2011 IT Business of the Year by the Black Data Processing Associates (BDPA) — Twin Cities Chapter.
She sits on the boards of the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce (SPACC) Foundation, the Minnesota Black Chamber of Commerce (MBCC), MMSDC, the Metropolitan Economic Development Association’s (MEDA) Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) Advisory Council, and BDPA — Twin Cities Foundation.
Beyond the accolades recognizing her achievements in business, Richburg has been influential in another significant way: She has gone to great lengths to help enrich the lives and future career opportunities for others, especially youth of color.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” says Richburg. “I enjoy nothing more than ensuring that our youth are given an opportunity to pursue their interests and a chance to defy expectations.”
“Dorothy certainly has made a difference in my son’s life and in the lives of other young people interested in the field of technology,” says Marsha Connor, who has collaborated with Richburg on events and youth scholarship programs for the Twin Cities BDPA Chapter. “Because of Dorothy’s involvement with BDPA, my son Brent is now pursuing an undergraduate degree in computer science.”
Connor explains that Richburg sits on the board of the chapter as the vice president of strategy and planning, and has been influential in obtaining financial support for the organization’s youth programs. These include a summer program, a high school technology program, and a nationwide high school computer competition that is offered by National BDPA.
Richburg has utilized her influence to align the BDPA — Twin Cities Foundation with companies such as General Mills, Xcel Energy, UnitedHealth Group, Best Buy, Medtronic and other local companies in order to provide summer internships and college scholarships to high school-age students of color who have an interest and aptitude for technology. Each year, students who are part of the chapter are awarded college scholarships to pursue a degree in IT.
“I believe we need to instill positive values in our youth even when they are toddlers,” says Richburg, who was encouraged at a very young age by her parents and later by her teachers. “This [act of instilling positive values] can have an impact on [a child’s] future.”
According to Stephanie Austin, foundation director for the SPACC, Dorothy dedicates a great deal of her time as a member of the foundation’s board engaging young people. She plays a major role in the foundation’s scholarship program committee, where one of her responsibilities includes reviewing high-school scholarship applications, a major time commitment. Each year 25 to 40 college scholarships are awarded.
“I believe that by investing my time and dollars in organizations that support our youth, and minority-owned and women-owned businesses, I will make a difference in my community and in our future leaders,” says Richburg.
Richburg says her dream when she was young and growing up in the Washington, D.C. area was to become a math teacher. She considers herself fortunate to have had parents who pushed her and teachers who encouraged her, pointing out that many Black youth in D.C. didn’t have the mentorship and encouragement she was given.
Her eighth-grade teacher encouraged her to become the president of her school’s math club. Richburg recalls studying from the very book her teacher had authored. “I wanted to succeed, and I spent many nights studying theorems from my teacher’s textbook.”
In high school, Richburg studied calculus from a former Howard University math professor who wanted to use her as his protégé to show his colleagues that students should be taught calculus during high school. Such recognition and encouragement, Richburg says, motivated her to excel in her field years before entering college.
Richburg received her BS degree in mathematics with a minor in computer science from Ohio University. She has post-graduate studies in executive business programs from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth University, the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, the University of Minnesota and Clark Atlanta University.
As president of her company KCS, Richburg now has the opportunity to return the favor and help today’s youth pursue and achieve their dreams. Each summer, KCS hires summer high school and college interns to assist with technical support projects. These internships provide students with practical, hands-on experience and can lead to full-time opportunities with KCS, or any other company.
This past spring, Brent Connor completed his freshman year of college and dreams of a career in the computer or IT field. Because of Richburg’s influence, his dream is being realized.
Lisa Bryant welcomes reader responses to lisabryant177@com cast.net.