Perched high above the Toronto skyline on the 42nd floor of First Canadian Place, Faustina Otchere was joined by the team at Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP to be honoured for her hard work and dedication to making her community a safer and more welcoming place.
Otchere was being presented with one of the Black Business Professional and Association national scholarships, aimed at encouraging academic excellence among black youth. The scholarships are sponsored by several different businesses and organizations — the FMC award is valued at $5,000.
Otchere is a 23-year-old first-year student at Osgoode Hall Law School who has a history of involvement in her community. She was born in Ghana, West Africa, and immigrated to Canada in 1995. She grew in up the Jane and Finch area of Toronto, where she’s been involved in fund-raising initiatives and diversity-awareness campaigns since high school. Otchere indicated that her experiences have made her quite aware of the need for access to justice and positive role modeling.
She’s currently involved with two community organizations; Girls Against Violence Everywhere and Youth Associations for Academics, Athletics, and Character Education both strive to take a stand against gang violence in local communities while encouraging young people to be more self-confident and maintain a positive self-image.
Otchere is treasurer of both groups, and maintains her commitment while attending classes at Osgoode. She says she hopes to use her law school education to encourage more positive changes.
“My time growing up in the Jane and Finch area of Toronto helped me realize the need for accessible legal assistance and positive role models in disenfranchised communities,” says Otchere. “Through my law degree, I want to ensure that people living in these areas have reasonable access to legal service, regardless of their background, and that young people have the positive influence they need to help them achieve their goals.”
Chris Pinnington, managing partner of FMC’s Toronto office, was on hand to congratulate Otchere and provide a few opening comments for the reception. Chantal Da Silva, co-chair of FMC’s diversity committee, provided a thorough overview of Otchere’s involvements before introducing Otchere to those in attendance. Da Silva also acknowledged that the award wouldn’t have been possible without the positive support of firm management at FMC offices across the country.
Otchere’s father, Gilbert, accompanied his daughter to the celebration and received a round of applause from the crowd. Denise Williams, last year’s recipient of the FMC-sponsored BBPA scholarship, was also on hand to congratulate Otchere.
When asked to give a few comments, Otchere made it clear that while she certainly appreciated the gesture being made by FMC, she hadn’t done the work just for the accolades — saying that she truly cares about making her community a better place. Many associates commented on the high level of involvement displayed by Otchere; even throughout the reception, she remained focused on looking for opportunities to help with her volunteer efforts as she chatted with members of the firm.
Otchere formally accepted the award at a ceremony at the MaRS centre in downtown Toronto later the same evening, with this year’s cohort of 48 BBPA scholarship recipients. The scholarship program, which was formerly known as the BBPA Harry Jerome Scholarship Fund, has seen over $1.1 million be distributed to youth since its inception in 1986.