John W. Kozyak grew up in a totally segregated community near St. Louis and was in high school when the 1964 Civil Rights Legislation was implemented. John moved to Miami in 1974 for a summer clerkship without knowing a person and was fortunate enough to be hired by two well known, respected lawyers, who were wonderful mentors. John credits his success in the legal profession to the strong mentoring relationships he developed. Throughout his career, John noticed the lack of diversity in the legal profession. John believed that mentoring was a powerful tool in addressing the need to improve diversity in the legal profession for all minority groups and particularly African-American lawyers.
John became an active mentor years ago and in 2002, he created his own mentoring program to match minority law students with experienced lawyers and judges in the legal community. Later, John, along with his law partner, Detra Shaw-Wilder, formed the Kozyak Minority Mentoring Foundation to strengthen and grow his efforts to use mentoring as a platform to increase diversity in the legal profession. Although much of John’s early efforts were dedicated to providing mentors for black law students, the Foundation provides opportunities for all minority law students. The Foundation has close ties to the Cuban-American Bar Association (“CABA”), the Florida Association of Women Lawyers (“FAWL”), Haitian Lawyers, Caribbean Lawyers Association, the Gay & Lesbian Lawyers Association, Florida Muslim Lawyers, the National Hispanic Bar Association and many other voluntary bar associations.
For 13 years the Foundation hosted an annual picnic, which grew and grew to approximately 5000 people in 2016. The KMMF now concentrates on smaller receptions and meetings to provide more direct input.