In 2017, OJEN introduced the Justice Education Fellowship program, to formalize an existing post-secondary outreach program in Ontario’s law schools. For students with an interest in delivering Public Legal Education (PLE) for youth audiences, Justice Education Fellowships provide training and support as they plan and deliver their first projects. Six law students from 5 law schools took part in the inaugural year, facilitating a total of 20 justice education projects throughout the province. About 450 youth participated in these programs that ranged from criminal mock trials to cyberbullying workshops.
In its second year, six more OJEN Fellows are carrying out justice education programming while carrying a full law school course load. Over the next few months we will profile some of the OJEN Fellows and the projects they are working on.
Tawny Allison, Ottawa
Tawny Allison, a second year law student from the University of Ottawa, has organized Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) workshops for students in four Ottawa high schools since September 2018. She plans to deliver 4 or 5 more before the school year finishes. The workshop consists of 3 classroom sessions in which students learn about different kinds of ADR, its applications, how it relates to the issue of Access to Justice and what careers utilize ADR skills. They also get hands-on practice negotiating strategies using mock negotiation scenarios about selling or purchasing a cell phone or car or renting an apartment. Emphasis is given to the importance of identifying joint interests with the other side.
“Students are really engaged in this activity,” Tawny says. “It’s very fun and interactive. They like the fact that they can apply these skills to different areas of their lives.”
The program was developed by the previous University of Ottawa Fellow, Laura Epplett, who was very passionate about ADR and wanted to make sure it went on in the future. Tawny was one of the student volunteers who delivered workshops last year. As an OJEN Fellow, she now coordinates the program with her fellow law student Nikita Atkinson.
A major part of her responsibility involves recruiting law students to run the workshops. There are currently fifteen to twenty law school students who work in teams of three in the classroom. Students who have previous experience in the program are teamed up with new recruits. The experienced volunteers facilitate and provide practical support while the newer volunteers lead the workshop.
According to Tawny, she doesn’t have any difficulty recruiting law students for these volunteer positions. Whether they’re looking for experience for their resume, building skill sets or just want to do something else besides law school, they are excited to be part of the program.
Working on the administrative side of the program instead of with the students has completely different challenges, Tawny says. Coordinating a dynamic team of committed individuals is a great learning experience and she appreciates the opportunity to work with so many different kinds of people.
Tawny is one example of how law students use their passion for positive change to help promote legal capability for youth. Watch for profiles of OJEN’s other five Justice Education Fellows in upcoming issues of Dialogue.