Da’Wyna initially came to OJPC looking for help with sealing her record. She talks about how her younger self didn’t have a lot of knowledge regarding the law. If she was stopped by police, she didn’t know much about the criminal justice system and so when she was pulled over that lack of knowledge had long-lasting effects.
“My sister and I were driving in the car- it was her birthday. I was 18, she was 16, and she had drug paraphernalia in the car. I took the rap for her thinking, “I’m 18, she doesn’t have to go downtown. I’ll just take it and it will be a ticket.” And no, it wasn’t just a ticket. It stuck with me. I got the ticket, but it was on my record forever and I did not know… I didn’t want to keep being in those situations not knowing the laws, so I actually took a step to start learning.
After that experience, Da’Wyna was inspired to go to school to be a paralegal and to create an understanding about the law that could help people in similar situations.
When she came to OJPC to get that ticket removed from her record, she spoke with attorney Gabriel Fletcher. As a newly graduated paralegal, she was looking to erase the past and start working in the law field. She mentioned her desire to take on volunteer work to gain experience, and Gabe immediately suggested that she apply to OJPC. She thought “Wow! that’s awesome because that’s the perfect field for me. I love helping people and if I feel like I can make a change, I love making change.” She soon interviewed with Operations Manager Laura Beverly and Volunteer Kathryn Wallace. Together, they found an opportunity, and Da’Wyna was brought on board to help with work in the office.
While volunteering and helping with various administrative tasks, David Singleton mentioned the opportunity to go to court and sit in on one of his cases. This was the first time Da’Wyna was able to experience seeing criminal law “at work” and she explained this moment really impressed her and has since shaped her career aspirations.
“Before I came to OJPC I was stuck in corporate law. That’s just what I was going to stick to- it was kind of the norm. Now I want to learn more about criminal law. I want to get into different law practices now. I love that I volunteered just to gain experience and learn more about this type of law. I am happy they gave me that experience. Now that I see I would love to go into that field. Eventually, I would love to learn that side of law and be walking in the courtroom myself as a paralegal, doing cases, and being a paralegal at OJPC if possible. I just love volunteering there right now, that’s the focus.”
Da’Wyna turned her law aspirations into reality with the help of OJPC. Even with a busy schedule and raising three children, Da’Wyna finds time to do whatever she can to help others in need of legal assistance and work towards her goals in pursuing a career in criminal law.
“People really do need a voice and need help. And people are busy, have a lot of things going on, and can’t find the help,” DaWyna said. “I just love helping and putting things right.”