For Desiree Jones, adjusting to the rigorous demands of life as a first-year student in Dal’s Schulich School of Law has been a process of self-discovery.
“I find I’m learning a lot about myself,” she says. “You find out who you are under pressure, for sure.”
According to Desiree, studying law requires an even higher level of organization and dedication than she applied to her undergraduate degree in Sociology and Social Anthropology, which she also earned at Dalhousie.
Finding role models and supports
As she evolves, adapts and learns more about herself and what it takes to succeed, Desiree maintains a strong connection to the person she has always been. Growing up in a predominantly African Nova Scotian community in Upper Hammonds Plains, located on the outskirts of Halifax, she sought advice and mentorship from the people and organizations in her neighbourhood and the broader African Nova Scotian community.
“In my immediate family, only my sister has been to university. I didn’t have a lot of role models so I had to get ideas from my community about what I could do,” she explains. “I attended a lot of conferences in high school that were hosted by organizations like the Black Educators Association and the Black Business Initiative.”
The encouragement she received helped steer Desiree toward her dream of studying law.
“I wanted to be a paralegal when I was in middle school, but someone from the community said, ‘Don’t stop there. You can be a lawyer.’”
While earning her undergraduate degree, which also included a minor in Law and Society, Desiree made use of several support systems on campus. She refined her writing skills at Dalhousie’s Writing Centre in first year and found another nurturing community at the Black Student Advising Centre (BSAC).
“At the Black Student Advising Centre I could meet people in a smaller setting, people with similar interests and cultural background. It just felt like home,” says Desiree.
“It just feels like everyone is there, as mentors and as peers, to help each other. You get a sense of encouragement and the feeling that the people around you value you and your opinions.”
Desiree enjoyed the community spirit at BSAC so much that she began a part-time job as a receptionist there in her second year. In third year, she added another part-time job with the Advising and Access Centre, proctoring examinations for students requiring special accommodations.
Spending so much time on campus as a student, employee and volunteer has allowed Desiree to meet a wide range of people and see the university — and the world — from different perspectives. Paired with her formal legal training, these experiences inform her ideas about a future career, one that she hopes will lead her back to the place her journey started.
“I want to be able to provide my community with legal advice and work on different projects that support the community. Most importantly, I want to act as that role model for youth to look up to and encourage them to pursue higher learning.”
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