Each year, OJEN’s bursary program offers financial assistance to 22 students in Ontario who are entering post-secondary education to pursue a career in the legal field. These bursaries are provided by the Association of Justices of the Peace of Ontario (AJPO), the Association of Ontario Judges (AOJ), and the Ontario Superior Court Judges’ Association (OSCJA) in each of their judicial regions. Judges and justices of the peace personally review all applications and select the recipients. In 2023, we received 298 impressive applications from graduating high school students.
A pleasant surprise
When OJEN staff received the 2023 list of bursary recipients, we were both surprised and delighted to see a familiar name. Makailah, formerly a student at C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute, was one of AOJ’s bursary recipients from the Toronto region. OJEN staff knew her through her volunteer activities with us this summer. We sat down with her for a quick interview.
“I was really happy. A load lifted off my shoulders. It was a really good surprise,” Makailah told us with a smile. “One of my goals is to be a criminal lawyer. But if I get a chance to be an Attorney General, or an opportunity to keep going up, I will take it.”
Makailah’s interest in law was initially piqued by the Law in Action Within Schools (LAWS) program at her high school. “I started talking about law at home and watching TV shows about it.Then for some reason, I started to feel a rush from the law and helping people. So I continued with it.”
She also found out about OJEN and the bursary program through LAWS. “The bursary application process was really easy. It took me two to three days because I wanted to think of my answers, but it probably could have taken me less than an hour.”
During her time volunteering at OJEN, she assisted in a wide range of programs, such as the Summer Law Institute and Together 180. In Together 180, Makailah had a chance to learn about legal life skills and different categories of law, and to help bring the information to youth in custody and on probation.
To fill her time, Makailah was part of her high school’s volleyball team. She also told us that she was reading a Criminal Law handbook. Makailah mentioned that she wanted to take this educational opportunity to become a better version of herself. She is now pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology at York University.
Thank you for another successful year
In addition to Makailah, this year’s recipients are currently pursuing post-secondary education in Law & Society, Forensic Science, Criminology, Political Science, Psychology, Business Management, Commerce, Anthropology, and various other programs at universities and colleges. The bursary program aims to help alleviate some of the stress of post-secondary education and support the future generations of legal professionals.
Through their applications, recipients elaborated on their passions, experiences, and the future legal careers that they would like to achieve. Many of them expressed their desires to help create change and advocate for people’s rights in the legal system.
A bursary recipient from the Central East region wrote to one of the judicial associations: “I aim to excel academically, actively contribute to my community, and engage in meaningful research and projects that can positively impact our legal system and public policies. […] The prospect of advocating for justice, fairness, and equality under the law has always ignited a passion within me. Your generosity has invigorated this passion and strengthened my resolve to make a difference in the lives of individuals and the broader community.”
The OJEN Bursary program has grown steadily since it was first established by AJPO in 2009.
“This initiative helps students with the financial burden of pursuing post-secondary studies,” said Justice Ferhan Javed, on behalf of the AOJ and Justice Sharon Nicklas, Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice.
Both Justice Javed and Justice of the Peace Eileen Walker, Chair of AJPO’s Bursary Committee, agree that the quality of applicants makes selecting the recipients challenging for their committees.
“Many of these students have goals to pursue legal studies and contribute to the administration of justice. While the AOJ cannot reward all the worthy applicants, we hope students will continue to apply for the bursary and continue to make contributions in their communities through participating in OJEN’s excellent programming. The future for the administration of Justice in Ontario looks very bright,” Justice Javed said.
“We thank the many applicants for their submissions and wish all applicants the very best as they commence their postsecondary area of study. To those who received our award, our heartfelt congratulations,” concluded Justice of the Peace Walker.