October 17th, 2017

Historic appointment for First Nations U of L grad

By Villeneuve, Melissa on May 6, 2017.

Hard work has paid off for Julian SpearChief-Morris of Lethbridge, who is the president of the Harvard Legal Aid program. Photo submitted

Stephanie Labbe

Southern Alberta Newspapers

Growing up in Lethbridge, Julian SpearChief-Morris never thought he would be where he is today.

SpearChief-Morris has been named the first indigenous president of Harvard University’s Legal Aid program. He says making the decision to go to law school was an unexpected process.

“From an early age, I’d been bothered by the problems that I saw on my family’s (Blood) reserve and, after starting my undergraduate degree, I studied community planning, because I wanted to learn how struggling communities could be made healthier,” said SpearChief-Morris.

Initially, he considered applying for law school, but ended up putting it off. After doing his undergrad degree, he took some time off before accepting a job with the Lethbridge School District 51 where he worked as a guidance counsellor, specifically assigned to aboriginal students.

“It was an incredible experience and I saw some great success stories, but I often felt like I wasn’t in the position to address the root causes of the issues that were affecting my students, so coupling that sentiment with my interest in community development, I made the decision to apply to law school,” he said.

SpearChief-Morris had to work extremely hard to get into Harvard. For years during his undergrad, he was diligent with his studies, while balancing that with a busy schedule playing basketball for the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Urban and Regional studies in 2013 from the U of L.

“After graduating from the U of L, I studied for months before taking the law school admissions test in order to get a score that would make me a competitive applicant for the top law schools in Canada and the United States,” he said. “I am very thankful that all my hard work eventually earned me admission into a school like Harvard.”

It’s a tremendous honour, said SpearChief-Morris, about being the first indigenous president of the Harvard Legal Aid program, adding he feels fortunate. He applied to the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau late in his first year of law school and began working at the bureau as a student-attorney in the fall of his second year.

“Since that time, I have learned so much – both from the work itself and from the brilliant people who make up the bureau. In late 2016, I was nominated to run for president and early this year, I was fortunate enough to have been elected,” added SpearChief-Morris.

When applying to law school he had many options north and south of the border.

However, after visiting Harvard, he was impressed with the school, its history, its many programs and course offerings and the people he met there.

“After a lot of thought, I made the decision to enrol at Harvard and it has been an amazing experience.”

SpearChief-Morris hasn’t decided on his plans after graduating from Harvard.

“I’d like to take advantage of the opportunities and resources that Harvard Law School has made available to me, but long-term my goal has always been to head back to southern Alberta and put my skills and experience to use in strengthening my community,” he said.

SpearChief-Morris working towards completing his juris doctor degree at Harvard and expecting to graduate in May 2018.

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