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Athra Walied

Sheridan grad Athra Walied

Faculty of Applied Health & Community Studies

Degree: ESL, 2008 & Paralegal, 2010

Year of graduation: 2010

Heading home: How paralegal grad Athra Walied helps others, near and far

Paralegal grad Athra Walied found her sense of place during her years at Sheridan, and there’s no stopping her now. Born in Iraq and raised in Syria, Walied’s role as Senior Processing Officer at Ontario’s Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration demands high ethical standards while maintaining a sense of empathy.

“My job requires a lot of integrity, powerful decision making, logical skills and fairness,” she says. “It shapes the lives of many people, and they need to be treated with compassion — you can’t take the human component away. I treat each individual as a person, not a document.”

Walied remembers how her time at Sheridan shaped her own life. “When I first joined Sheridan, I didn’t have confidence due to my language difficulties,” she remembers. “I wanted to challenge myself and get out of my comfort zone.”

During her last year of the paralegal program, Walied wanted to give back to her fellow students and Sheridan itself, so she worked as a peer mentor. The experience built up her public speaking skills and started her journey to helping others. “It was important to me, especially coming from a different country and transitioning to a different school. I wanted to help other people,” she says. “To be a successful person is one thing, but you need to walk among your people – not to be above or below them.”

Walied points to two professors who were particularly influential in her formative years. Jura Seskus, an ESL instructor who helped Walied through a tough personal time when she was ready to drop the program, even though Seskus was personally suffering from late stage cancer and passed away soon after; and paralegal professor Patricia Knight, who recognized Walied’s potential and would sit to personally coach her after class.

After completing a bachelor’s degree in law and society from York University in 2013, Walied received a call from Stephanie Samboo, Associate Dean, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. Samboo invited Walied to be the only student member of the ESL Professional Advisory Committee. “I felt empowered because I was given a place of authority at Sheridan and people gave me the ability to do things and get out of my comfort zone,” she says.

Walied continued her education with a master’s degree in public policy and administration and also took her own turn at teaching as a graduate assistant. “I did what my professors did for me: I sat with students and encouraged them,” she says. “Because I was treated in a good way, I gave back when I had the chance. Even though I knew that I would never see them again, my goal was to leave a print on their lives.” Wanting to help those in disenfranchised and destitute communities outside of Canada, she has also volunteered as a missionary leader to Gros Islet, St. Lucia. Wherever she goes, however, she knows that there’s one place she’ll never stop visiting.

“I will always come back and contribute to the Sheridan community,” she says. “I love Sheridan – it’s like home to me.”
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