As my third and possibly final summer working with OJEN in Hamilton comes to a close, I am forced to reflect upon my time with OJEN and how it has come to change my life. Interestingly, I became involved with OJEN while in grade eleven, when I participated in a mock trial run by the Hamilton Regional OJEN Committee. I was still a pretty shy kid back then, and elected to be the court reporter, as writing was an easy skill for me and it meant not talking in front of a crowd – something that, to this day, still frightens me.
But the following year, when I again attended the mock trial in Hamilton, I decided to be a lawyer for the defence of Keri Jones in the OJEN mock trial R v. Jones, which until recently was the only scenario run by the Hamilton OJEN Committee at both its Winter and Spring mock trials. I chose to take a leading role after my success in the law program at my high school and my confidence with the case, having worked with it before. The stage fright I encountered the previous year was by no means gone, but I was able to rely on my fellow ‘lawyers’ to do most of the presenting, while I prepared their speeches. I thought it went very well and that we argued our case better than the other team, but the jury wasn’t so sure. The jury members, consisting of students from two different schools, could not decide either way in the case. I was upset until I learned from my teacher that there was only one student who thought we had not argued well enough in defence of Keri Jones, which was enough to create a hung jury.
That spring, I graduated from Delta Secondary School and received the Law award, partly for leadership in the mock trial. I went on to McMaster University to study what I believed to be my true passions, History and English. After my first year I was looking for a summer position and saw that OJEN was hiring a Project Officer to assist with the Hamilton OJEN Committee – the same group that had created the memorable mock trials. I applied to the position, thinking that while it was worth a shot, my program of choice would disqualify me from the job.
I later got a call from OJEN, offering me an interview. There were many students coming in and out of the interview room when I arrived at the John Sopinka Courthouse, all of whom looked older and surely more qualified than I was. I later learnt that indeed, most of the other applicants were in law or related programs, with more experience than me.
But somehow I managed to convince my interviewers that I was right for the job. I was told it was not just because of my enthusiasm for the program, but also because I was an “OJEN baby” – I had come full circle from participating in an OJEN program to wanting to work for OJEN, and possibly the justice field in the future.
In my three years at OJEN I have had the opportunity to work with a number of brilliant, insightful, caring people who have helped me to develop skills that I can take with me to just about any job. I have learned more about the justice system and its intricacies than I did in high school. And most of all, my eyes have been opened to the option of going to law school after I graduate in April 2015. Working with OJEN has challenged my original career inspirations, thereby helping me to become more aware of the type of career I want for myself, the type that makes the world a better place.
Although I am still undecided as to what I want to do after receiving my undergraduate degree, it is no doubt clear that OJEN has opened my eyes to the endless possibilities in the justice and non-profit sector. All in all, I am truly grateful for the opportunity that has been given to me and the people who I have had the pleasure to work with.
OJEN/ROEJ Summer Intern