The Aish Jewish Legal Network is giving third-year law student Kortney Shapiro an award to exemplify her mentorship and other community activities.
“I was so honoured, I am still kind of in shock,” says Shapiro.
The Young Leadership Award ceremony held last week was a way of highlighting a law student who is a role model in the academic and professional capacity, as well as in community service.
Every year, Aish hosts a gala dinner to honour future changemakers within a specific faculty. This year, it focused on law students says rabbi Mitch Mandel, executive director and one of the founders of Aish HaTorah in Toronto.
“Her academic diligence combined with her community service warranted this award,” he says.
The Aish Jewish Legal Network came into existence approximately a year and a half ago, so the award was the first of its kind. Two other networks with a focus on business and health, were created alongside the legal network. The idea is to recognize students in their respective networks for the community service they provide while keeping an excellent academic record, says Mandel.
Shapiro is very proud of her Jewish heritage, which has propelled her forward in volunteering for a number of Jewish organizations. She has also devoted a lot of time to community needs outside of the Jewish network he adds.
Shapiro made it to the top of the potential candidate list after a relative — who was also honoured at the Aish Jewish Legal Network — suggested her name.
“[O]nce we saw her resume . . . that’s what cemented the decision,” notes Mandel.
Shapiro boasts a slew of accomplishments with a number of groups she has been involved with over the years.
In her first year at law school, Shapiro joined Osgoode Women’s Network and hasn’t looked back since.
“I am a woman law student. The issues that affect women in law affect me,” says Shapiro.
The network raised $3,760 during this year’s CIBC Run for the Cure. It also partnered with Goodmans LLP to co-ordinate a clothing drive and collect gently used professional clothing.
Shapiro has been involved with Holocaust education programming as part of the Jewish Law Students Association.
“When I was at McGill [University], I spearheaded the Holocaust education program for students, my grandmother is a survivor, so I am very connected,” says Shapiro.
In 2006, Shapiro went on a tour where she visited parts of Poland and then went to Israel. While she was in Poland, Shapiro went to see concentration camps and meet with Holocaust survivors.
She calls that “a turning point,” and “when I came back I realized I want to be involved, whether it is Jewish related or not, I want to be involved in community.”
“I don’t want to be complacent,” she emphasizes about her reasons for joining boards to have an active role and voice in causes that move her.
Shapiro has been a mentor through the Osgoode women’s network and says it is very important to pass on knowledge.
“When you come into law school it can be very intimidating, it’s a new world, it is a new environment, and it’s very easy to get caught up.”
Having someone to go to with questions about one’s first summer job in law or for advice on choosing a course can be crucial she says.
“I like to connect people to other people, I thrive on relationship building,” says Shapiro.
And communication, building a rapport, and connections you make are essential in your law career, she notes.
“At the back of my mind I always wanted [to go to] law school,” says Shapiro, “it was something brewing throughout my undergraduate career, and it was something that I had thought about and when the time came and I was ready, I was READY!”
Shapiro can’t believe she is already in her third year and has a few words of wisdom to share with law students just starting out:
“Be open to new experiences, don’t limit yourself, your mind really is a sponge,” she says. “Now is the time that we are afforded opportunities to sit on committees and be a part of groups, and executives, do things that are fun or interesting.”
And her motto?
“I understand you can’t do everything, but you can try!”