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Bilal Khan’s story begins with systemic barriers. Even though he was born and raised in Toronto, when he entered school, he was slotted into ESL along with the newly arrived immigrant children. Throughout his school years he was overlooked and underestimated. And in high school a guidance counsellor told him to forget about university but that college might be a possibility.
Despite the education system’s lack of faith, his parents’ support never wavered until Bilal himself began to give up. It was at this point that his mother – previously his greatest supporter – began to doubt him. The loss of his mother’s faith in him was catalytic, giving him the motivation to turn things around.
Bilal’s prospects took a sharp turn for the better, leading him to university, followed by law school. Today, he works as legal counsel for Russell Investments, a global financial services firm.
And when he’s not practicing law, Bilal is working to make sure that youth from similar backgrounds don’t get overlooked by the system. As part of his work with DiverseCity Fellows, Bilal has co-founded Project Inspire!, an initiative that provides youth in at-risk neighbourhoods with the tools and networks necessary to achieve their true potential.
DiverseCity is also helping him tackle his own barriers. “I wasn’t born into privilege. I didn’t inherit any networks,” he explains. “DiverseCity Fellows fast-tracked that for me.”