Annamaria Perruccio…Vaughan lawyer move in leaps and bounds

By Marisa Iacobucci

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  Photo by Guilio Muratori

Photo by Guilio Muratori

While most unsuspecting little girls can easily succumb to fairytale dreams of becoming princesses, Family Law lawyer Annamaria Perruccio, 29, was far too busy for tiaras. 

She heeded, instead, to her future call of litigation. “As a child, I would defend my younger sisters whenever they got into trouble or were being scolded by my parents. I distinctly remember a time when I was arguing contributory negligence on behalf of my sister and was insisting that it wasn’t her fault that she had broken the lamp in my family room. Instead, it was my parents’ fault for placing the lamp too close to the edge of the table,” recalls Perruccio, whose family lovingly nicknamed her “the little lawyer with backwards shoes” because of her childhood habit of wearing her shoes backwards. 

Perruccio, who grew up in Vaughan and now works for Sutherland Law in Vaughan, was always interested in law and languages. She pursued an undergraduate degree in Multidisciplinary Studies from Glendon College (York University), which allowed her to combine her interests in languages (Italian and French) and law. The trilingual Perruccio then went on to complete her Masters coursework through York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, focusing on social environments, specifically, the discrimination faced by Italian-Canadians in Toronto after the Second World War. Her research was put on hold while she pursued a law degree at the University of Windsor, but she plans to complete it.

For now, Perruccio is focused on practicing family law and is committed to assisting her clients during what might be the most challenging periods in their lives. “I am passionate about what I do – everything from the initial client meeting, to mediation, court attendances and the completion of a file. I love being able to find creative solutions to meet the individual needs of my clients,” she says.

While the demands of her career keep Perruccio working long hours, she longs to spend time with her parents and her two younger sisters (Daniela, 28 and Alessandra, 25) even if that means sharing at least one meal together on weekends. Perruccio’s father was born in Argusto, Catanzaro in Calabria. Following in his brother’s footsteps, he immigrated to Canada in 1973 in search of a better life. Perruccio’s mother, also from a Calabrese background, was born and raised in Toronto. 

Perruccio’s Italian upbringing is something she is fiercely proud of. “Italian traditions and culture are an important part of my life and have played a significant role in shaping me as an individual. My strong work ethic is rooted in the values and morals my parents instilled in me at a young age.” Some of Perruccio’s fondest memories of growing up in an Italian family include always being surrounded by family, friends, and food of course.“Whether it was sitting around the lunch table on a Sunday afternoon, making sugo over the Labour Day weekend or buying an entire cantina full of panettone and visiting relatives at Christmas, Easter and other times, the love and laughter that filled my home cannot be understated,” she explains.

“Italian traditions and culture are an important part of my life

and have played a significant role in shaping me as an individual”

While pursuing her undergraduate degree, Perruccio was lucky enough to be able to study abroad at the University of Bologna for one of her Italian courses. Thus began her love affair with Italy. She found a reason to return every summer, while working as a supervisor and assistant teacher with the Centro Scuola e Cultura Italiana Summer Exchange Program in Italy for Canadian high school students.

Besides her career and family, volunteer work is also very important to Perruccio. “I maintain my commitment to volunteerism as a mentor to youth and [am a] strong advocate and supporter of various organizations, such as Camp Oochigeas, Parkinson Canada and SickKids® Foundation,” she says.

Perruccio is currently president and chair of La Rocca Memorial Society, a non-profit organization, whose mission includes inspiring volunteerism and engaging young people to become change makers in their communities. A past bursary recipient, Perruccio is living proof that the next generation can be encouraged to become involved and make a real difference in the lives of others.

Her career, family life and volunteer work show no sign of slowing down anytime soon, just as Perruccio likes it. If she could give any advice to future leaders, it’s this: “Be true to who you are and never compromise your values or beliefs for anyone or anything. There is nothing greater than one’s integrity. Work hard and persevere in order to achieve your goals and never forget your roots and where you came from.”

Reprinted with permission from Panoram Italia    

Melissa Appleton: A Career in Conflict Resolution

By Emma Kushnir, WorkStory Ambassador

When Melissa Appleton took the “What colour is my parachute?” quiz in school, it always told her to become a lawyer, social worker or psychologist, but she knew those traditional jobs were not the right fit. Thus she entered McMaster University’s interdisciplinary Arts and Science Program with no idea of what to do with her life. Soon she discovered all the electives she had picked and enjoyed were under the Peace Studies umbrella. This was partially influenced by the fact that she lived in Israel for a year after high school. She graduated from McMaster University with an honours degree in Peace Studies and planned to work internationally in the Balkans (a region in Southeast Europe) with a local NGO, which produced social educational theatre for young people. Through the experience she learned that international development was still not the right fit for her, but also realized she needed more concrete skills. Melissa continued her graduate education at Columbia University for Peace Education, oriented towards practice with a focus on conflict resolution.

In 2008, Melissa started working at a local mediation organization, the New York Peace Institute, in Brooklyn, New York. The New York Peace Institute is one of the largest community mediation organizations in the United States. Through state and city funding, the organization offers free mediation and conflict resolution services to the New York City community. Mediation is defined by the New York Peace Institute’s website as “a conversation between two or more people, led by a trained, neutral mediator, and is a less expensive, time-saving alternative to court”. They allow people to settle their differences, to get what they need or even to just be heard, for a myriad of different reasons. Melissa started there as the Outreach Coordinator, but now acts as the Program Manager.  As the program manager, she “focuses on building and maintaining referral relationships, and increasing use of the services through the development of programs to meet the needs of the community”.

She explains her inspiration was from her upbringing. She was very involved in the social justice-oriented Jewish youth movement as a child, which largely impacted her life by introducing her to “isms” such as racism and sexism at an early age. This not only got her care about the world and other people, but also started her love of conflict resolution, and the facilitation and training of it. Melissa enlightens, “I didn’t go into school intending to work in mediation or conflict resolution… I was honestly unaware of the option, but given my sensibility and interests, it makes perfect sense that I landed in this field.”

When asked about why she loves her job, she replied “mediation is [a] very rewarding and engaging occupation for me. I am continuously challenged to grow, to learn, and to improve my practice. With my clients it’s a privilege to support and witness people making transformative decisions, and moving forward in ways that make their lives better”.  Melissa explains that on her path there was,  of course,  the challenges that people face when their career falls outside of traditional career options, but the hardest part was really just finding the right job.

Melissa’s advice for people figuring out what they want to do is “talk to people, LOTS of people, people you know and people you don’t, and ask them about how they figured it out, and what lessons they learned from their experiences. Don’t limit yourself to the easy options, the ones that have their own professional degrees in school.  And stand firm against people who pressure you into these standard careers. There are so many different ways to make a living. Some of them just require some extra creativity, willingness to work hard, and comfort with the uncertainty of how things will turn out. Do internships at places you find intriguing. By volunteering, you get to see what the day-to-day reality actually looks like. Internships are also a tremendous networking tool, do good work and people will want to help you moving forward.”

To learn more about mediation and the New York Peace Institute visit http://nypeace.org


A Clinical Counsellor’s Perspective: Lanie’s Story

By Emma Kushnir, WorkStory Ambassador

Lanie Schachter-Snipper’s adventure in life and academics has been vast and amazing. After finishing her undergraduate degree from McGill University in Latin American and Caribbean Studies, she took a huge break doing various jobs ranging from teaching first grade in Honduras to running a cultural art tour business in Cuba. She then went back to school at the City University of Seattle for a Master’s degree in Clinical Counselling and Psychology, and finally to Yale School of Medicine to complete a fellowship in the Forensic Drug Diversion Program.

Now settled with a family in Toronto, Lanie is working as a full time clinical counselor for Shepell.fgi providing assessment and crisis intervention for employee assistance.  But her real baby is a non-profit organization Upfront Counselling and Management that she and a criminal defense lawyer founded in 2014. The organization provides psychological support for court-involved individuals who are charged with crimes involving aggression, with a primary focus on domestic abuse and substance abuse.  Offenders are referred by their lawyer, and partake in individual or group counseling that is therapeutic in nature, which is different than other organizations that exist in Toronto.

When asked why she got into the profession of psychology especially after so much different work, she answered that “from a young age I was always interested in deviance, people who broke the law, and crime in general.” As for the making the decision to do a masters program in psychology, she divulged that she applied to many different types of masters and international programs because she knew she needed to do something and was interested in a lot. She explains “in my case it really worked out and my work is really rewarding. I can’t imagine doing anything else, but it is very challenging and draining, and can be overwhelming.”

 Speaking about the many challenges that comes with the job, she explained that boundaries are hard, “I am fairly good at having a challenging work day and not spending a ton of time thinking about it, so having good self care and maintaining healthy boundaries is very important.” She also clarified that you must set realistic clinical expectations “you have to be realistic of what you can accomplish with people such as those who are living in poverty. One of the hardest things is knowing there are limits to which you can help people.”

Though with the challenging, comes the rewarding. She explained that “everyday I work, I get some feedback that the time I have spent talking to a client has been positive in some way. Whether there is an opportunity to vent or validating feelings, on a daily basis, even if it is subtle, I see the work I’m doing is meaningful to someone. There are moments today at the very least, this person isn’t going to kill themselves. Plus there is always new stuff coming up like new protocols and approaches, which makes it not the very least boring.”

As for people who are interested in this line of work her advice is: “you have to understand how complex people are, no matter how much learning you will do, every single person is unique and needs special attention. In this field you need a certain amount of stamina, energy, and a lot of compassion.” For others seeking out what to do, Lanie offered the advice: “Don’t rush. It can be easy to hurry into things because careers are appealing, but the importance of the in-between gets lost, and it’s an important time. I took so long to figure out what I wanted to do. Meet people travelling, work in different places and environments. Explore and be curious, and learn as much as you can about the wider world and your community. The more experiences you have, the better you will be in any job.”

My Fitness Dream: “Howe Fit”

By Alexandria Friesen, WorkStory Ambassador  & Amy Howe-Wall

Passion is one of the most easily recognizable traits a person can have.  If you have never known someone or had a conversation with someone who has passion, I’d like for you to meet Amy Howe-Wall. From my first encounter with Amy, I knew that she was a genuinely caring person devoted to improving the wellness of others. It has not always been smooth sailing, but success does not always come easy; it’s a matter of believing that it is worth it.

Amy is the Owner-Operator and Instructor at Howe Fit, the premiere customized fitness and nutrition provider in the greater Kingsville/Leamington/Harrow, ON area. Offered at Howe Fit are group classes, single and group private training, nutrition programs and, most importantly, an incredibly positive environment to help you achieve your fitness goals! So, how has Amy come to gain so much success doing something she loves for a living? Here is her story.

Amy attended Kingsville District High School and, upon graduation, attended St. Clair College in Windsor, ON. She graduated from St. Clair with degrees in both the Paramedic and Law & Security programs while maintaining an athletic scholarship for her badminton career while in college. Amy has also obtained the following licences and certifications on her path to success: Can-Fit Pro Personal Trainer, Can-Fit Pro Fitness Instructor Specialist, Resist-a-Ball Level 1, Kickboxing Certification, Kettlebell Certification, Zumba Certification, Spin Instructor Certification, and Pilates Instructor Certification. Talk about qualifications!

As Amy is self-employed, she will not hesitate to tell you that the path to get to where she is now has not been easy. “As a business owner,” she says, “you come to learn that you work 24/7, no matter if you are present at work or not.”   Howe Fit was established in October, 2010 and it is incredible to see where Amy’s hard work and dedication has brought her once-small business. “When you’re the sole operator, there is no ‘calling in sick’, finding a replacement, or simply not showing up,” she continues, “Work has consumed my life for the last 5 years in some good ways and in some bad.”

With dreams of working in the police force, Amy had always shown a love for health and fitness. The turning point was her own weight-loss success at the age of 20. After working long, tedious hours at other businesses and helping those around her succeed, she decided to try her luck at self-employment at the age of 22. “I always believed in myself so I used that confidence to push through the tough times because I knew deep down I had what it took to become successful,” says Amy.  Like anything in life, there were obstacles – finances, time, energy, support – and sacrifices had to be made.

So what does Amy enjoy most about her job?  The answer is simple: “I am one of those crazy people that absolutely loves working out, I sometimes can’t believe I actually make money doing it on a daily basis!” In addition to that, Amy expresses that helping people achieve their personal goals is one of the greatest accomplishments one can achieve. “It makes me smile knowing I am helping others regain their self-esteem and in some cases their lives”.

Are you interested in pursuing a career in the health and fitness industry or looking to start your own business? This is what Amy has to say to you; “Explore your options! Become well informed and do your research! I do not regret my time working for other business at all…it actually gave me a platform to the people and also a better understanding of how I wanted to run my own business”.  Because of how hectic Amy’s schedule is, there is often little time to do things other people her age may be doing, like going on vacation – “there are a lot of variables to consider; it’s a big decision to make!”

Regardless of the path that Amy will continue down, she knows she will always be involved in health and fitness promotion; “it is who I am, not what I do”, she says, “the sky is the limit for what I wish to accomplish and challenges I wish to tackle.” Regardless of what she chooses to do, it is quite clear Amy will be successful at it.  In times of stress Amy often remembers these words and would like you to do the same the next time you are faced with an obstacle: I would rather live a few years of my life like most won’t, to live the rest of my life like most can’t. 

Gregg French’s Story: The History of His Story

As told to Brandon Pedersen, WorkStory Ambassador

gfrench1.jpg

I suppose that I could argue that my life as a historian has been far from linear.  I began my Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Western Ontario in September of 2005 with the full intentions of finishing my degree, entering law school, and practicing law for the remainder of my career.  The problem was, I didn’t know why I wanted to practice law; heck, I didn’t even know what type of law I wanted to practice.  All I knew was that some lawyers made a lot of money, they got to wear fancy dress clothes, and they held a position of power in society.  So, like most individuals that aspire to go to law school, I took the advice of my guidance counsellors and I enrolled in a program that I was interested in, and I knew I would excel in.  Luckily for me, the program was History.

From a young age, I have been interested in the past.  My grandparents were my first history teachers and at the age of eighty-seven, my lone remaining grandmother is still my oldest history teacher.  Growing up, I was inundated with a broad range of historical stories ranging from life in rural Ontario during the Great Depression, to the legendary stories of the Portuguese discovery of India in the late fifteenth century.  However, at the time, these were just stories from the past, not a possible lifelong career.

I guess that you could say that the cliché of “finding yourself” at university applies to me.  By the time that I had completed my third year of my undergraduate degree, I knew that I no longer wanted to become a lawyer (Side note: Spending a bit too much time with my friends, instead of studying for my LSAT, may have played a role in this decisions but I think that things like this happen for a reason).  However, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.  I enjoyed studying history and I enjoyed interacting with fellow students but I still didn’t think that studying history was a realistic or viable career goal.

I really enjoyed my undergraduate years at Western, so when I was faced with the decision of either coming back and doing my Masters or entering a job market that had recently been hit by the recession of 2008, it was a no brainer for me.  Essentially, I was forced to ask myself, “Let me get this straight, you’re going to pay me to study history and I get to teach undergraduate students in a tutorial setting, where do I sign?”  Little did I know, conducting my Masters research at the University of Western Ontario was going to introduce me to several influential people that were willing to show me that a career as a historian was both a realistic and a viable career that I could excel in.

I guess that brings us to today.  Presently, I am a fourth year Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of History at the University of Western Ontario.  Under the supervision of Professor Frank Schumacher, my dissertation examines American perceptions of Spain and the Spanish Empire from 1776 to 1914 (For more information, check out my website http://greggfrench.wordpress.com/).  Sound like a bunch of theory and historical jargon?  Well, to a certain degree, it is.  However, at the root of the narrative is a story about the past. Historians are story tellers, and it is important for us all to remember that.

At the moment, I just returned from three months in Washington, DC, where, on behalf of a Doctoral Research Fellowship from the German Historical Institute and a Harris Steele Travel Fund Award from the Department of History at the University of Western Ontario, I was conducting research at the Smithsonian Institution Archives, the National Archives, and the Library of Congress.  Currently, I am working on a body chapter of my dissertation, applying for future fellowships, working on a few publications, and preparing to teach my first course during the Winter Semester of 2015.  So life is busy but that keeps things exciting. 

I hope to finish my dissertation by the Fall of 2015 and at that time, I hope to either acquire a post-doctoral fellowship or be teaching at a post-secondary institution.  My career goal is to acquire a tenured position at a post-secondary institution that will allow me to continue to conduct research, as well as continue to teach university students.

Advice for an individual that is interested in becoming a historian? 

Surround yourself with a strong support group.  Friends, family, and mentors help with the long hours of solitary work. 

If you intend to do a Ph.D., be prepared that your friends will be getting married, buying houses, having children, and making more money than you until you finish your dissertation, and perhaps for several years after.

Block out the noise.  Not a day goes by where I don’t see an article where a Ph.D. candidate or a recent graduate is writing about his/her difficulties in finding gainful employment.  Yes, I feel for these individuals; heck, I’m in the same boat as them but reading too many of those articles will often cloud you mind with negative thoughts.  My advice is keep your head down, get your own work done, help other people as much as you can, and remember that you volunteered for this.  Dr. Christopher Stuart Taylor gave me that advice when I started my Ph.D. work and now I’m passing it on.

Be organized and focused. 

Remember that every day is not going to be filled with sunshine and roses.  Sometimes, you’re going to have a lecture that doesn’t go well or you’re going to have a day where you can’t find what you’re looking for in the archives.  Don’t block those days out, learn from them.  Also, make sure to remember the day when you saw that light bulb go off over one of your student’s heads or remember the day when you found exactly what you were looking for in the archives.  Those days keep me going; hopefully they will keep you going too.