Let’s start with the basics. Tell us about yourself. What makes you you?
My name is Presila. I’m 21 years old. I immigrated to Canada from Jamaica when I was 3 years old. Since then, I have lived in and around the Jane and Finch community. I like to describe myself as an outspoken, fierce and intelligent lady. What makes me, me is my ability to speak my mind (in a respectful way, of course), regardless of what others may think about it.
Why did you decide to join LAWS?
I was first introduced to the LAWS program when I was in grade eight. They had hosted a Mock Trial activity at a summer program that I was attending. I don’t remember what the Mock Trial was about but I vividly recall the debrief session that we had after. I remember it vividly because it was the most frustrated I had ever been in my thirteen years of life. The facilitators encouraged everyone to share their thoughts and opinions and of course, I had an opinion and I believed my opinion was the only true and correct one. The conversation had gone around and around in circles for almost thirty minutes. When I went home that night, I remember telling myself that I NEEDED to be a part of this program in high school. Although the conversation was frustrating, I appreciated that we were able to have the conversation in the first place. It was thought-provoking in the sense that it forced me to analyze my beliefs and biases while encouraging friendly debate.
What are some of your favourite or most valued moments from the program?
One of my favourite memories in the LAWS program include the Court Experience Program that I was fortunate enough to attend in grade ten. In this program, myself and one of my peers had the opportunity to spend a day in court. We spent the day touring holding cells and then shadowing different members of the court system (i.e. Justice of the Peace, Judge), and sitting in on trials. Another memory that I am extremely fond of is having the opportunity to work in a law firm in Downtown, Toronto as my FIRST JOB. How many people can say that their first job was at a law firm? This is the opportunity that solidified my decision to go to law school. (Fun fact: they filmed the show “Suits” at this law firm!!)
What are you up to now?
Currently, I am in my fourth and final year of completing my undergraduate degree at Brock University. I am studying Sociology with a Concentration in Criminology and a minor in Political Science. As well, I am working part-time for the Government of Canada while patiently (but anxiously) waiting to hear back about admission to law school!
What are your future goals and aspirations?
My future goals and aspirations include becoming a lawyer. The kind of law that I would like to practice is undetermined. However, I am passionate about human rights. As an individual who was raised in the Jane and Finch community, I have watched as my peers and those close to me have been labelled and stigmatized solely based on where they grew up. I can empathize with people who perceive the Jane and Finch community as a crime-ridden, gang-populated area – it is all they are shown. However, the label and the stigma that come with it are not the whole story. As a lawyer, I will fight to prove that low-income communities, as well as individuals who come from these communities, work hard every day with the resources that are available. However, they deserve better and more than what they are often given.
How did LAWS impact your life/career choices?
LAWS impacted my career and life choices by firstly inspiring me to become a lawyer, and then providing me with the resources necessary to become a lawyer. Prior to being introduced to the LAWS program, lawyers were only people that I saw on TV. I never thought that I could actually become one. However, after having the opportunity to participate in things like the Court Experience Program, Mock Trials, mentorship opportunities, as well as working at an actual law firm, that goal did not seem unattainable.
Did you meet any mentors or role models that inspired you along the way?
YES! I have had the great honour of meeting Jackie VanDerMeulen at the Fasken mentoring partnership with LAWS. (This is a picture of her and I at my LAWS graduation in grade 12!). She is kind, generous and overall, an amazing human being. Because of her, I was able to secure a position at Fasken as a Summer Administration Student. As well, Jackie has played a HUGE role in my journey to law school. From providing me with advice about law schools to editing my personal statement, she has been there and I am extremely grateful to have her in my life.
What advice would you give to students who are considering signing up for LAWS?
DO. IT. Just DO.IT. LAWS has provided me with so many opportunities, relationships and experiences that I would not have had otherwise. The LAWS program is filled with individuals who truly want to see you succeed. Even now, years after I graduated from Westview Centennial, Eleonora and everyone at LAWS are always doing what that they can to support me. I am forever grateful to have LAWS in my life and if you give it a chance, you will be too.