Growing up in an ethnic household with immigrant parents—like most of my peers—the common joke amongst us was that your parents will either want you to be a doctor, engineer, or lawyer. As a youth, you simply view it as your parents wanting you to take on a prestigious career and be successful in life. However, the older you get the more you start to wonder why no one amongst family and relatives is in those career fields even though there is such an emphasis on it. Now as an adult I feel like I have the answer to that curiosity. It comes down to not having enough exposure to roles models in that field from an early age. For me, it was the field of law. To put it into perspective, how does a youth know he wants to be a football player? It is because they are greatly exposed to it from a young age as they see people who look just like them succeeding in these careers. I never met a lawyer or participated in any law-related academia until I was seventeen—a few months away from graduating high school and pursuing my initial post-secondary education at the University of Toronto. Most importantly I was unsure of what career path I wanted to pursue until midway through post-secondary when I gravitated towards law. At that point, I wished I had known earlier that being a lawyer was a feasible career option as this would have allowed me to position myself better academically towards that goal. This is a thought that I got carried with me into my volunteer experiences as well.
Having worked with youth as a coordinator for a mentorship program and mentor in my hometown I quickly realized the impact my presence has had on the youth as a positive role model. Just like myself, they were all first-generation Canadians and they saw me as someone they could relate to. I often shared with them my academic achievements of post-secondary as a way of providing them with confidence that they could do it too, if not excel even further. Having worked with the same youth for almost three years, from fourteen to seventeen years old, I saw improvements first-hand. Whether it was in regards to academics, extracurricular activities, interpersonal skills, home life, and so on. This brings me to the point as to why I joined the Insight project.
This impact inspired me to pursue a position within the Insight Project as a means of giving youth that exposure to law academia and the field itself—while presenting it as an attainable goal. This is something I never had growing up but genuinely believe could have made a significant difference in my life. What is even more valuable in this project is that youth are involved first-hand with project members. This allows them to get a visualisation that individuals just like them are within the law school and on their way to becoming practising lawyers. This is no different than a young child seeing football players and wanting to be just like them. The ultimate goal is to inspire young minds towards gauging interest in the field of law and figuring out if this is something they would like to pursue. Hopefully, this can be used as a positive step towards breaking barriers in law amongst marginalized youth.