“I learned at a young age how to lead the pack, whether into trouble or out of trouble,” smiles Njoh, recipient of the 2016 NSBS Presidents’ Leadership Award.
He credits his parents for building his drive for volunteering: “My parents are both teachers and I watched them volunteer in their church, schools and local cultural groups. They made it mandatory that we participate in similar peer groups.”
Now articling at Stewart McKelvey – and a parent to two youngsters – Njoh enjoys community service because it allows him to interact with a diverse range of people across disciplines. His work with the African Diaspora Association of the Maritimes involves building relationships within that community but it’s also a way to serve as a link between African culture and Canadian culture in the region. Through efforts to bridge gaps in cultural competence, he acts as an advocate for issues important to the African diaspora.
Njoh came to Halifax for his post-secondary education, completing an honours degree in political science at Dalhousie before going on to the Schulich School of Law. In his final year of law school, he founded “Project Healing Initiative – From Canada to Cameroon,” which gathered funds and medical supplies that he personally delivered to the Akofonguba Community Health Centre in Cameroon. Funds also aided in the construction of the community’s only secondary school.
He’s now working to transform the project into a non-profit organization that will deliver legal and medical consulting. He hopes to connect the African Diaspora of the Maritimes to this project by creating a community action group, to fundraise and build classrooms for existing schools with little or no resources.
Also while in school, Njoh was President of the Dalhousie African Students Association and also active with the Law Students Society, the Dalhousie Black Law Students Association and the Black Law Students Association of Canada. As a student rep on Dalhousie Legal Aid’s board, he worked with several groups to raise funds to install solar panels on the clinic’s roof and lower its energy and operations costs. He was a pro bono student volunteer with the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia, and volunteered as a peer mentor with the Black Student Advising Centre.
Njoh was proud to receive the 10th annual NSBS Presidents’ Leadership Award. “When the community recognizes your efforts, it’s a thing to cherish,” he says.
Past Presidents Philip Star QC and Catherine Walker QC established the award in 2007 to emphasize the importance of leadership in a lawyer’s career, and honour the volunteer commitment and leadership of Past Presidents. It’s presented each year to a graduating student who has exemplified consistent leadership qualities while at law school.
With legal knowledge and skills, lawyers bear a responsibility to lead social, economic, cultural and political progress, says Njoh. He’s grateful the Society offers an award that recognizes the importance of community work and volunteering.
His leadership advice for other law students, articled clerks and lawyers: “Take initiative. Take risks. Do not be afraid to fail at something because if you must fail at something, be proud that you at least tried.”