Award-winning Police Foundations grad extending her stay at DC

Graduate Spotlight: Maya Austin

Maya Austin has a bright future in policing.

The native of Ajax will cross the stage at Convocation this June as a graduate of Police Foundations. After a summer working full-time as a Student Cadet with York Regional Police, she’ll return to Durham College (DC) this fall to further her education in the Advanced Law Enforcement and Investigations graduate certificate program.

In recognition of her hard work and commitment, she was recently honoured with the Joe Moylan Award of Excellence, given each year to a remarkable Police Foundations graduate from an Ontario college.

With one chapter closing and another soon to begin, Maya sat down with us to discuss her DC experience, serving her community and more.

Have you always wanted to pursue a career in policing?

I always had the idea in the back of my head that that’s what I wanted to do. My dad is a paramedic in Toronto, and he has worked really hard for everything that he has. A lot of his close friends are police officers. Obviously, paramedics and police aren’t the same, but they are in the sense that you get to help people and give back to your community. That was always something that stood out to me.

Why did you decide to study Police Foundations at DC?

I got a call from the rugby coach at Durham College and he asked me to play on his team. I started looking into the different programs at DC and I saw that they had a Police Foundations program. I got a rugby scholarship and ever since I started in that program, I knew that’s where I was meant to be.

Have you enjoyed your DC program?

Honestly, it has exceeded my expectations. It’s been great meeting students with the same goals who are just as driven as I am. It’s been a great environment to be a part of, and I’ve been presented with such great opportunities. Through my placement for my Community Policing class, I’ve been able to volunteer at Back Door Mission in Oshawa, which is a homeless shelter. I’ve been hired on with York Regional Police as a Student Cadet, and I got that opportunity through the program as well.

How has the program prepared you for your career?

Most of my professors have backgrounds in policing, and I think that’s really important because they have the experience to back up the material. They have all those very unique stories that they tell that bring a completely different side to the learning. In terms of preparing me for this Cadet position, I passed the interview with flying colors because of my professors and how well that they prepare each and every single one of their students.

Why did you decide to come back this fall for the Advanced Law Enforcement and Investigations program?

I’ve learned a lot at DC. I have such great memories made through my placement and program, and I wanted another year of having that education, especially the hands-on learning.

What advice do you have for future students in the Police Foundations program?

Give everything your all. Two years ago, I would never have guessed that I’d be where I am today. Every opportunity that my professors provided me with, I just took it and I ran with it. I allowed myself to be a sponge and absorb everything that the teachers were saying. So just completely invest yourself into every aspect of the course.

How do you feel about graduating?

I’m very excited. I’m starting a new chapter, working full-time this summer and also balancing rugby and then school in the fall. It’s going to be challenging, but it’s a challenge that I’m ready for. The last two years have really solidified that this is what I want to do.

What does the Joe Moylan Award of Excellence mean to you?

I was humbled to have been nominated in the first place, so to have actually won the award, I was very happy. Just knowing that all the hard work that I put in over those two years has been recognized is an amazing feeling.

Do you want to serve your community? These programs from DC’s Faculty of Social and Community Services will show you the way.

New Paralegal – Honours Bachelor offered at Durham College (DC)

Beginning this fall, Durham College (DC) is offering a new way for students to prepare for a career in the growing paralegal profession.

To complement the two-year Paralegal – Diploma and one-year Graduate Certificate programs, DC is introducing the four-year Paralegal – Honours Bachelor program. Beginning in September, students who are passionate about the law can set their sights on the province’s second paralegal degree.

The paralegal profession has only been licensed in Ontario since 2009, and its parameters continue to expand. Paralegals can now represent people in civil litigation involving claims up to $35,000. Where once they were limited to representing people facing up to six months of jail time, they can now represent those facing up to two years for certain offences.

As paralegals take on more responsibility in the legal system, they need education that will fully prepare them for the courtroom, according to Dalton Burger, degree program coordinator.

“The sector is growing and the education has to keep up with it,” said Burger. “I’ve been teaching 15 years now. This degree is based on all the conversations the students and I have had, and what they’d like to see.”

Although a diploma will qualify students for the Law Society of Ontario’s (LSO) paralegal licensing exam, Burger believes the degree program will grow in popularity as the profession continues to expand. He pointed to degree courses on important subjects like constitutional law, Indigenous law and critical race theory as bonuses that, though not required by the LSO, give a budding paralegal an advantage in the job market.

Regardless of which credential they want, students have an invaluable learning opportunity at their fingertips. DC has partnered with the Durham Community Legal Clinic to create the Access to Justice Hub, where students can put their knowledge to work by representing real people in real court cases.

“It’s a free legal clinic, and the only one in Ontario where paralegal students gain experience working with marginalized people in their community,” explained Laurie Marshall, faculty member. “The Legal Clinic gains extra manpower having students there, and DC students have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for field placement. They gain an incredible amount of practical experience and knowledge.”

Working at the Hub was an indispensable opportunity for Siham Mao, a student in the graduate certificate program.

“My field placement experience at the Hub was incredibly rewarding. I admire and respect the Hub’s commitment in providing accessible legal aid for our community members facing barriers to justice,” said Mao. “I would highly recommend it for any students or volunteers looking to be a part of a team striving to bridge the justice gap in our community.”

The opportunity to apply what she had learned in class to the real situations she’ll encounter in her career was the highlight for Siobhan Rocks, another student.

“My work placement at the HUB gave me a fantastic opportunity to see how the skills and knowledge that I have acquired in college can be applied in the workplace,” she said.

Kristina Millson had a similarly valuable experience as she prepares for a career as a paralegal.

“I gained practical experience drafting court documents, speaking to clients, and going to the Court House to file documents and speak with the Court Clerks,” she said. “My experience at the HUB has made me even more excited to pursue this profession.”

With new program options like the Paralegal degree and unique hands-on learning opportunities like the Hub, DC continues to lead the way in preparing students to excel in their careers.