Family of legal minds
Audrey Burgess is a career banker. These days, however, her attention is focused on acquiring the Legal Education Certificate from the Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad to be a qualified attorney.
In another few years Audrey will join her daughters Janaye and Jamila in a profession which all three have chosen because they want to help people.
Theirs is an example of a family striving together to achieve, supporting each other all the way.
“Besides my organization, I have always had a desire to help others – those who are unable to represent themselves and this opportunity in law would help me to do that and by extension to help me to cause positive change in my society,” Audrey said during an interview with Easy magazine via Skype.“I wanted to add some value to my job by being able to look at the legal aspect of things and be able to help out with giving advice when called upon in the legal area,” she added.
As manager in the corporate credit section of CIBC First Caribbean International Bank, responsible for risks, part of her role entails reviewing credit agreements and security. She has completed an associate degree in banking, became an associate in the Canadian Institute of Bankers; did a Master’s in business administration specializing in financial risk management and derivatives, at the Heriot-Watt University, but until now could not pursue an early dream to be a lawyer. That ambition was derailed by family responsibilities.
Finally, she has been able to join her daughters Janaye, with whom she is currently studying at the Hugh Wooding Law School and Jamila now a practizing lawyer, in going after the profession of her dreams.
“I have always wanted to do law but as a young person I went into something other than law. I went into family life and it changed my direction completely.”
For this mother, who has been a single parent for the last five years, studying with her children “is a great feeling”.
Jamila has already been hired by the law firm Seneca Chambers and taken under the wing of the attorney Cicely Chase, QC, but Audrey and Janaye are now in their first year of study for the Legal Education Certificate.
“Nothing adds more value to my life than to see that my children and my family by extension are a great family of unity”, said Audrey.
Concerning studying with her children, she observed: “You are able to positively influence each other; you are able to work together and discuss issues; you share different views and perspectives on issues; you are able to count on each other for support, and this gives me a great feeling of family unity.”
This mother is reaping the rewards she put into the early work of raising her children.
“My motto at home was always reach for the stars and be the best that you could be. I did a lot of talking, and I always used prayer as a guide in my family.
“I make sure that my children are at church so that I am not only growing them on the physical side of things but I am also bringing them along in the spiritual side of things.”
She described for EASY how she had managed to escape challenges faced by many other parents by spending “quality time” with her children when they were very young, engaging them in long conversations about the things she considered essential for life and success and exposing them to experiences and places that she felt would serve to enhance their education and development.
Hers were five-year-olds excited to begin primary school because mummy had told them what to expect. She had even done some preparatory work with them. At all stages of their school life they understood that homework was paramount and that mummy would always be waiting to review it.
“I stayed with them in areas that they needed help when they reached secondary school age. If they needed help in any subject, I would seek out the best lessons teacher in any subject they needed the help with. I always kept alongside of them, working to make sure that they did the best.”
It is the kind of dedication that was not lost on the children.
For the last six to seven years, Janaye has worked as resident organist and trained both the adult choir and the junior youth chorale at St Matthews Anglican Church. She is also assistant organist at St Matthias Church, working with both senior and junior choirs.
Joining her mother for the Skype interview, Janaye was asked how she managed to remain focused. “My mum, definitely my mum. Thank God for her. She has been a great source of inspiration,” she gushed.
“Any time I am down, my mum always refocuses me and she provides the support that I need to get through.” From the opposite side of the screen, Jamila nodded in agreement.
Like Audrey, Janaye’s goal is to be equipped to help people. In the position of organist, she has experienced the demand to extend herself beyond music.
“You have to be a counsellor and there are so many issues that the children of the society have today and I feel fulfilled knowing that I am able to help, even just by talking to them and give them advice.”
Though professional qualifications in music remain in her plans, she chose to study law because she considered it an area where “I would continue to feel fulfilled”.
With Janaye studying in Trinidad, Jamilia has stepped in, taking over her sister’s youth choirs “so she does not have to worry about that.” Jamila wants to save those young people from going astray and pledges to “hold on to them” until her sister returns.
She was called to the Bar in Barbados last October 18, the day before her mother, Jamila and their cousin Tanya Hinds graduated from the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus.
This is a close knit family and Audrey credits her parents with ensuring that she and her three siblings got a good education.
“Although my father constantly hurts because he was not given an opportunity that was his to move on and do secondary education because he was not financially blessed.”
But she has emulated her parents in their zealous quest to see their children succeed where they could not.
“I think that credit must be given to my parents, my brother, my two sisters and Aunt Vic for the type of support they have shown for the success of this family. I think it is that foundation that has inspired me and I have taken some of those things into my own family,” Audrey said.
That family influence has also been the inspiration for Audrey’s niece Tanya, with whom Audrey is also completing the Legal Education Certificate.
Drawing on her own experience, Audrey encourages other parents to be ever present in their children’s lives, and to shore them up every step of the way.
“You must do your best for your children,” she said.