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    Law students make a difference

    A pair of students from the Faculty of Law are being recognized for their efforts in supporting the Queen’s community.

    Michael Coleman (Law'17) and Thompson Hamilton (Law'16, Artsci'13) are two of the five Queen's students being inducted into the Agnes Benidickson Tricolour Society this year.

    Thompson Hamilton (Law’16, Artsci’13), and Michael Coleman (Law’17), are among five students being inducted into the Agnes Benidickson Tricolour Society this year for their outstanding service to the Queen’s community. They have both earned the top university honour through impressive extra-curriculars that have made a lasting, positive impact.

    The Tricolour Award, which is presented at Convocation, is the highest tribute that can be paid to a student for valuable and distinguished service to the university in non-athletic, extra-curricular activities.

    “Serving the Queen’s community is a win-win scenario,” says Mr. Hamilton. “I’ve contributed but I’ve also learned a lot, and met some of my best friends. Once I got a taste of being involved, there was no going back.”

    That taste started in his undergraduate years, when he chaired the AMS Judicial Committee, volunteered with Queen’s Model Court and welcomed prospective students as a campus tour guide.

    As a law student, Hamilton served as VP (Professional) of the Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS). In that role, he modernized the organization’s Human Resources portfolio to ensure compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, introduced employment contracts for paid employees, drafted formal anti-harassment policies, and was also instrumental in reaching out to professional faculties that were historically less involved with the SGPS. During that time, he also sat on the Grad Club Board of Directors.

    The highlight of Mr. Hamilton’s time at Queen’s is his three-year clinical experience with Queen’s Legal Aid, helping students and low-income residents who are often in dire straits.

    “Helping people get the income support they deserve, launching human rights claims, preventing people from getting criminal records – it’s very rewarding to have a chance to make a real difference in someone's life,” he says. “There is a very real problem with access to justice in Ontario and law students can play an important role in chipping away at it.”

    He is helping more students do just that, passing on his knowledge and experience by training the next generation of QLA caseworkers.

    Co-winner Michael Coleman gets his motivation to give back from his parents, who arrived in Canada with little financial backing and worked long hours, but still found time for volunteer work.

    “Regardless of how successful or unsuccessful you become, you will always be in a better position than many others in society,” he says, recalling the valuable lesson he learned from them. “This makes it your obligation to help your community whenever the opportunities arise.”

    Mr. Coleman, only in his second year of the JD program, has filled a number of important roles targeting diversity and equity issues on campus. As a member of the SGPS’s Equity-Issues Standing Committee, he organized conferences, workshops and social events. Having been elected President of the Queen’s Chapter of the Black Law Students of Canada and appointed Equity and Diversity Commissioner for the Law Faculty, he has highlighted the continuing need for inclusivity and diversity to remain important elements of the school.

    While juggling these important initiatives, Coleman volunteered with Queen’s Legal Aid and also as an English and Math tutor at the Collins Bay Correctional Institution in Kingston. There, he helped inmates improve their reading and writing, sometimes working towards their high school diplomas.

    For Coleman, one role stands out above the rest: acting as a Student Peer Advisor for graduate students.

    “I’m able to connect directly with students completing their PhDs and offer them practical solutions to the academic or social issues they face,” he says. 

    For example, after a two-hour meeting with an academically unmotivated student who intended to drop out the next day, he not only convinced the student to continue studying but also to take stress-relieving and confidence-building fitness classes.