Friday, March 9, 2018
African-Caribbean students in the Moot Court room participating in the Leadership by Design event

By Lucianna Ciccocioppo / Photos by Francine Buchner and Jerome Poon-Ting

About 60 high school students attended a Leadership by Design event, together with their parents, at the Faculty of Law, March 3rd, to hear inspirational talks from law alumni and current law students from the Black Law Students Association.

Leadership by Design is the premiere program offered by the Lifelong Leadership Institute, a non-profit initiative which seeks “to provide youth in the African-Caribbean community with wide-ranging opportunities to develop and practise effective leadership.”

The Grade 10 and 11 students from around the Greater Toronto Area heard from alumna Justice Rita Maxwell, who spoke on leadership through the law. Panels included advice from lawyers and JD alumnus Omo Akintan, City of Toronto, JD/MBA alumna Hadiya Roderique, PhD candidate, Rotman School of Management, and  Zehra Sheerazi, an associate at Torys. The second panel included Black Law Students Association members Josh Lokko, JD/MBA candidate in second-year, Louell Taye, 2L, Marie Kiluu-Ngila, 2L, Solomon Mckenzie, 2L, and first-year student Cecile McKenzie.

Justice Rita Maxwell at the podium giving her keynote address to LBD

Alumna Justice Rita Maxwell gave the keynote speech at the Leadership by Design event at the Faculty of Law

Our award-winning Law in Action Within Schools (LAWS) program produced a mock trial for the students as well.

Trevor Massey, chair at the Lifelong Leadership Institute, said the program supports not only the development of leadership skills for high-potential Black youth, but also the exploration of career opportunities.

"In this context, it made sense for the Grades 10 and 11 students in the LBD program to spend time investigating careers in the legal field, and also interrogating how a career in law can serve as a pathway to leadership…including positional leadership. The Saturday session, hosted by the Faculty of Law, did that, and more." Massey added the law school provided a "a well-planned and executed learning opportunity for both high-school students and their parents."

“Trevor Massey approached the law school about hosting a session, and we jumped at the chance to do some joint programming with the LBD students and their parents,” said Alexis Archbold, assistant dean of the JD program. “What a wonderful group! My colleagues and I thoroughly enjoyed the day, and we look forward to hosting LBD again next year at the law school.”

Said Massey: "The keynote by Justice Rita Maxwell, as well as the panel discussions by prominent legal practitioners, were very much on target in providing sound advice to students interested in a law career. The participation by current law students who identified as Black was effective in presenting exemplary models of achievement and encouragement. As well, the mock trials in which each LBD student participated, provided the chance to understand trial rules and processes."

Feedback from parents indicated the event was “truly an amazing day…thank you for being instrumental in making today happen.” And another said: “I especially enjoyed the parents' session, as the presenter was witty, informative and fun. It was inspiring to learn that three or four of the persons from [the admissions] office are actually from the Caribbean—two 'Trinis’ and a Jamaican!”

The Leadership By Design program “provides at least seven years of development support to prepare youth in the African-Caribbean community for leadership roles, and these will span the high-school years and the university/college years.” Acceptances occur in Grade 10, and students benefit from leadership and career development for their high school years.