(JAMAICA OBSERVER) – Siblings Dwayne and Feleca Jonas are now both waiting to be called to the Jamaican Bar Association, having recently successfully completed their two-year tenure together at Norman Manley Law School (NMLS).
Though the brother/sister duo, who are two years apart in age, are overjoyed and thankful, it has also left them in a reflective mood, considering the obstacles they have surpassed to make it to this point.
Dwayne, a sergeant of police, told the Jamaica Observer that he always had an interest in studying law, which was piqued 20 years ago during his basic training to become a police officer. His sister, Feleca, said she has always wanted to be a lawyer, but her decision to begin studies was cemented through her job as a paralegal.
As a result of the siblings’ close-knit relationship, a discussion ensued and the decision was made that they would both do pre-law at the University of Technology (UTech) before enrolling in the Bachelor of Laws programme at the same institution.
“We made the application to pre-law in 2011 and were successful, then we moved onto the LLB programme in 2012 and graduated in 2015. We had a gap due to the fact that we are UTech graduates and had to do the entrance examination to get into NMLS. We just kept trying and in 2018 we got in, and now we have successfully passed and are waiting to be called to the Jamaican Bar,” Dwayne told the Sunday Observer.
But the journey was no bed of roses as, apart from the gruelling coursework, the siblings were met with many obstacles along the journey which included death, physical injuries and a new addition to their family.
“If we start as far back as high school, our mom died when I was 17 and my sister was 15, and that really brought us closer. We became almost like twins and were supportive of each other. We have a good relationship so studying together was not a difficult decision. In 2017, while we were studying together for the entrance test to NMLS, our dad died and so we delayed until 2018 when we both got in. Right through we were just saying none of us can be left behind. In UTech she got pregnant and I took notes for her and ensured she got the work done. I suffered a fractured arm and she took notes for me. We studied together right through,” Dwayne said.
Feleca added: “We do everything together – all classes, groups, mock trials, exams — as they group us by our surnames. We studied together and in the end we were both successful. It was like a miracle. We’ve been through a lot. My mom died when I was 15 and it was very stressful during that period. In 2017 our father passed but nonetheless we remained close and wanted to achieve our life goals, so we kept going. When we went to collect our packages at NMLS I stood over an hour waiting on Dwayne just so we could take pics together. I am happy, very thankful, and giving God thanks for choosing us.”
Once called to the Bar the duo intends to open their own law firm but for now they remain thankful to people who motivated them and assisted them along the journey.
“Our big sister in New York, Kayanna Jonas, is a nurse practitioner and she completed her master’s and is now doing a PhD in nursing. She really inspired us. I am also thankful to the Jamaica Constabulary Force [JCF] for the time off I got to attend classes. Assia McBean, the mother of my children, was really supportive during this period. My family members, members of the judiciary, the legal fraternity and the JCF who helped — thank you,” Dwayne said.
Feleca jumped in: “I want to just big up my sister Kayanna Jonas; Queen’s Counsel (QC) Kent Pantry; attorney-at-law C Judith Pantry; my babysitter Sislyn Spencer; Colin Ebanks, former HR executive at Administrator-General’s Department; Lona Millicent Brown, administrator-general for Jamaica; Khadine ‘Miss Kitty’ Hylton and her study group; and my other friends and family.”