Not a lot of teenagers transitioning into their twenties have their future well planned out and taking the necessary steps to achieve their ambitions.
But Shamima Nyamekye seems to have it all figured out and is already achieving greatness at age 20.
“I want my life to be testament of the fact that women can be and do anything. However, another thing that is bound to set me apart is my acumen for defying the status quo as well as my genuine desire to uplift those around me,” she told Kuulpeeps.
Her name, however, is one thing she also thinks sets her apart from others and propels her to pursue her dreams.
“My name is an Islamic word that literally means flower but can be roughly translated to mean someone who excels easily. I have always tried to live out my name’s meaning,” she said. “Sometimes, I think it is a part of the reason why I apply myself so much in the pursuit of my goals. My name is one of the first things that might make me stand out in a crowd; I have found that it is quite uncommon.”
Shamima was born in Canada but was raised in Ghana during her formative years till her early teenage years.
“My Ghanaian mother probably felt that an African upbringing was best for my moral development,” she said about being raised in Ghana.
“Well, in retrospect I think she was right. I am an extremely ambitious young woman and my age has never stopped me from achieving my goals. I am a career-education advisor at 20. At 19, I was the founder of a registered Canadian start-up company. I can only imagine what I will do next when I turn 21 this year,” she added.
Shamima had her basic and high school education in Ghana. She completed junior high school at the Ridge School in Kumasi, and after a year of attending Wesley Girls’ High School in Cape Coast, she left for Canada where she completed her senior high school education at Ascension of Our Lord Secondary School in Malton, Mississauga.
She graduated from the Canadian senior high school as the best student with a 94% average and within the top 1% of her graduating class. “I was awarded three medals for achieving the highest grades in Philosophy, Canadian Law and a Sociology course called Family Studies,” she said.
She also graduated with about 50,000 CAD in scholarships and got accepted into all the five universities she applied to. She, however, decided to go to Ryerson University because it offered the hands-on teaching experience she liked.
At Ryerson University, Shamima is pursuing a bachelor of arts degree (B.A) in Criminology. “Honestly, my love for crime shows and detective documentaries is what initially birthed my interest in a Criminology degree,” she revealed.
She, however, hopes to become a renowned lawyer in the future and sees her studies in Criminology as a way to acquaint herself with the tenets and faults of the Canadian legal system prior to attending law school.
“I want to be a White Collar Defense partner at a leading business firm in the near future and advance Diversity and Inclusion initiatives in the legal profession,” she revealed.
“Unlike some people who usually venture into this field, I wouldn’t say that it has always been my dream to become a lawyer. However, growing up and having a front-row seat to several of the social injustices in Ghana motivated me to want to pursue a legal career,” she said. “I am even more motivated by the fact that Black Women continue to be underrepresented in the legal profession. In my capacity as a lawyer, I want to ensure that Black and Indigenous people experience the Justice System in an unbiased, fair and equitable manner.”
Her desire to have a legal career comparable to that of Johnnie Cochran (renowned American lawyer and civil activist) or Bertha Wilson (the first female puisne justice of the Supreme Court of Canada), propelled her to contest and got elected for the role of Vice President of Ryerson Women in Law.
“I have never believed in simply attending university just for a degree. I think in as much as your degree is important, you should also make sure that your presence and your warmth are always felt,” she said. “I don’t want to just be remembered for graduating with distinctions, I also wanted to be remembered for giving back to the Ryerson community.”
In her capacity as the Vice President of Ryerson Women In Law, Shamima intends to help the organization break barriers in the legal profession for women through fundraising, mentorship opportunities and legal events. “As a feminist and women’s rights activist, this position means a lot to me because it will allow me to make the world a much better and equitable place for women to live, work and thrive,” she said.
Recognising her outstanding academic performance and contribution to the well-being of other students, Ryerson University honoured Shamima with the Michelle Monkhouse Memorial Award. She was the recipient of this award for the 2021 academic year.
“In my application essay for this award, I cited my academic accomplishments as well as my contributions both within and outside the Ryerson community,” she said. “At the time I applied, I had made it onto the Dean’s List with a 4.080 GPA and I was also volunteering as a mentor with Ryerson University’s Tri-Mentoring program which is a student-led mentorship initiative for first-year Ryerson students.”
Shamima is also passionate about higher education and academic mentoring. “I genuinely believe that with just the right push or nudge in the right direction, anyone can attain academic excellence. This push is what I intend to facilitate as an academic mentor,” she said.
Her passion for academic mentoring propelled her to set up Inspired By Shay (IBS), an academic mentorship organization aimed at mentoring and equipping students with the knowledge to be academically successful. IBS also offers career support as well, in the form of writing services such as cover letters, resumes and LinkedIn profile summaries.
“The idea initially came to me last Summer as I pondered over what my talents and skills were and what I could offer. I concluded that I am not very skilled with the popular business ideas like makeup or hair but one thing I know I am good at is studying. Therefore, I thought that I could help other students study as well,” she revealed. “After conducting some research, I found out that not many of my peers were academic mentors. It occurred to me that I could fill this gap. This prompted me to specialize in peer-to-peer mentoring because I felt that young people might be more comfortable sharing their academic issues with someone their age.”
Over the past year, she has mentored numerous students with very varying academic needs. “I would say that this is what I enjoy most about my job. Usually, students have different needs, which poses a challenge to me when it comes to ascertaining what that need is, in order, to recommend the appropriate solutions and resources,” she said.
She has also set up a scholarship program that is set to begin officially next year to assist Ghanaian students with the cost of their educational needs.
“The future is now actually, so I am already putting a lot of things in motion to achieve my goals,” she said. “Wherever I find myself in the future, I want to be fulfilling purpose and helping others.”
“I want to retire comfortably one day having been on Forbes as a multi-millionaire and a law professor at an Ivy League Law school,” she said about her ultimate dream.
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