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A Journey From Dishwashing To Yale Law

Posted: 10/09/2012 12:53 am

Toronto's own Jamil Jivani will soon return home as a newly minted Yale Law School graduate.

For the nearly 25 year old law student, who is a self-described citizen committed to the "principles of change, hope and progress" -- it has been quite a ride. For him, even a gig as an intern at one of the most exclusive law firms New York was not enough to convince him to stay in the United States.

He thinks he can have a real impact in a city that he calls as the "world's multicultural city." As he told a Jane and Finch audience at a community meeting last week, he is returning home to work with Toronto's most vulnerable and change the tide of crime, unemployment, and broken homes spotlighted last summer. He also hopes to work with Toronto youth to help them experience the academic success he has seen on his journey to Yale Law.

Jivani's story was not a common one. The 2010 York University graduate became the first in his family to graduate from a university. Years before he graduated from York -- at 18, with unfulfilled promise in his high school years, his only prospect was to work as a dishwasher and line cook in local Toronto area restaurants.

He grew up in a working class neighborhood in Brampton led by his mother. He was confused and felt hopeless as he was joining a slew of young people who were going through the same experience of underachievement and frustration. He decided to change that reality.

He entered Humber College with the hope of applying to university eventually. There he excelled and earned the 2006 Humber College President's medal for academic excellence. Jivani fondly recalls that Humber was his "second chance" to realize his potential and honour the gift of education society offered him.

He has not looked back since.

In addition to his academic achievements, Jivani committed himself to community service and working with a variety of non-profit organizations across Toronto. While at York University, he spent a summer teaching orphaned and underprivileged youth in Kenya -- the birthplace of his father. He told a local paper how his "first trip to Kenya was to see where my father came from and also meet some of his relatives," and how "that opened my eyes and I was keen to go back there and work with orphans because my father was an orphan. I used his story and experience to help me interact with the young people I engaged with."

At Yale, his commitment to community service has only intensified. He recently served as a leader for the Yale Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project where he taught constitutional law at a local high school and he was President of the Yale Black Law Students Association.

As Program Director of Marshall-Brennan, he focused on the Supreme Court's recent case regarding sentencing juvenile offenders to life without parole. He also led in the teaching of fundamentals of constitutional law, taught reading and writing schools, and prepared them for oral advocacy for a national competition in Washington D.C. With the Black Law Students Association he hosted the historic return of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to Yale and moderated a discussion on race, law and equality.

He also became a member of the Innovations in Policing Clinic working with a team of Yale Law students to study police departments in the United States and their relationship to disadvantaged communities.

Jivani is looking forward to his return to Toronto and applying what he's learned in the U.S. to being a leader in the city. He credits his roots in Toronto for giving him a foundation for success around the world. "The multicultural roots of our city and the opportunities we afford our people are unparalleled. I am grateful for all the support I've received in my life so far, and especially thankful to my community back home for being my guiding light along this journey."

 

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