Island law student wins $30K scholarship to prepare her to help BIPOC community

·2 min read
'I was kind of holding my breath,' says Keesha Ryan about receiving the call that she had won the scholarship. (Submitted by Keesha Ryan - image credit)
'I was kind of holding my breath,' says Keesha Ryan about receiving the call that she had won the scholarship. (Submitted by Keesha Ryan - image credit)

The pandemic made for a difficult first year of law school for Keesha Ryan of Charlottetown, but it is ending on a high note with news she has been awarded a prestigious scholarship.

Ryan is one of six recipients of a new scholarship sponsored by Scotiabank for law students intending to support and advocate for anti-racism in law. The scholarship is valued at $30,000.

"I was quite shocked when I first got the call. I received a phone call from the dean of law, then shortly after he wants to jump on a meeting," said Ryan, who is studying at Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University.

"I knew it was around the time when they were announcing the winner, and so I was kind of holding my breath."

Carrying the community forward

Ryan has a Black father and Acadian mother. An aunt made sure that she became acquainted with her Black heritage from a young age.

"I was introduced to this community and [am] proud of being a Black Islander," she said, adding that introduction has helped set her goals.

One of them, "knowing where we've come from and how far we can go," is to gain as much knowledge and education as she can "to help this group continue to advance."

Law would be the next stepping stone. — Keesha Ryan

Growing up on P.E.I. gave her first-hand experience of the systemic issues of racism that need to be addressed on the Island, Ryan said.

Her undergraduate experience at UPEI gave her ideas about how to go about it, as she became involved in the student union there.

"I really loved the advocacy aspect of the position, and working with students and advocating on their behalf," she said.

"I knew that that was something I wanted to continue on, within whatever profession I chose. And I thought that law would be the next stepping stone."

The first year of law school presented unexpected challenges, with the COVID-19 situation meaning she had to take classes from her home in Charlottetown rather than in person in Halifax.

While she has no personal experience to compare, second- and third-year students have been telling her virtual classes are more difficult, requiring more self-directed study.

With the new support of this scholarship, Ryan is looking forward to continuing her studies next year.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.


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