Justice Education Fellows meet for intensive skill development in facilitation and OJEN program models.
Students at post-secondary campuses throughout Ontario have often played an important role in delivering OJEN’s justice education programming to youth in their communities. In 2017 OJEN established Justice Education Fellowships to formalize the post-secondary outreach program in Ontario’s law schools. Six students were selected from five universities, one each from Lakehead University, University of Ottawa, and University of Western Ontario and the University of Toronto, and two from Queen’s University. All six Fellows bring a passion for social justice, justice education and access to justice.
Through the Justice Education Fellowship program, OJEN has an opportunity to provide in-depth training to a select group of law students. With ongoing support from OJEN staff, the students organize and deliver justice education outreach projects in their area, through local schools or community organizations. Each student commits to delivering a minimum of three justice education projects, support local OJEN Committees when applicable and contribute to various OJEN activities that arise during the Fellowship period.
Before the start of the fall term, all six Fellows met in Toronto with OJEN staff for an intensive weekend of skill development in communications, facilitation and OJEN program models.
“The best thing about working with OJEN is the support we get from beginning to end,” says Laura Epplett the Fellow at the University of Ottawa. She found the initial training session in Toronto gave her a good grounding in OJEN’s approach to justice education. “We got information about what Public Legal Education is and what its goals are. We learned about OJEN’s project models and the various resources that are available to us. It’s nice to have different options to choose from. We also received training on facilitating sessions with youth. It’s hard enough keeping the attention of an adult audience. Keeping youth involved is so much harder.”
The Justice Education Fellows hit the ground running. While carrying a full course load, they have already delivered several of their own projects and supported the OJEN office in a variety of local initiatives.
Fellows in Thunder Bay and London have played important roles in preparations for the Northwestern Ontario Law Institute last October and the upcoming London Law Institute. Their familiarity with the broader community is a great asset for the organizers.
In Ottawa, Laura developed a series of three sessions on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) for high school classes, which she delivered to three schools in the fall. She plans to take it to three or four more schools before the end of the year.
Some of the other projects planned by OJEN Fellows include
- Cyber-bullying workshop for Indigenous youth in Kingston
- Workshop on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and a mock trial in Toronto
- Justice Education circles, which connect youth with law students, local lawyers, professors and a judge in London
- Human Rights and Employment Law for newcomer youth, primarily Syrian refugees in Kingston
- Training session on Everyday Law for volunteers at a local community organization in Kingston
So far, the results have been extremely positive. Not only do the Justice Education Fellowships allow OJEN to expand the reach of its’ programming throughout the province, it develops a core group of new lawyers who have training and experience in the area of Public Legal Education. This experience at the beginning of their career promises to have long-term impact within the sector.
“One of the best things about the Fellowship is seeing the extra value you can get from your skills and experience,” Laura observes. “If you have the opportunity, it’s nice to give back.”
OJEN is currently accepting applications for its second year of Justice Education Fellowships.