As she walks through the Law School cafeteria on a busy Wednesday afternoon, Camille Castle greets at least a half dozen students with a quick hug or wave. It’s the first semester of her first year at St. John’s, and she’s hundreds of miles away from her family and friends in Ottawa, Canada, but you would never know it. She seems completely at ease and at home.
By her own admission, Castle is a people person who places a premium on faith and joy. Those priorities were instilled in her by her parents, who immigrated from the Caribbean island of Jamaica to the city of Ottawa to build a better life. “My dad wanted me and my older brother to be able to do anything,” Castle says. “He told us, ‘your character, joy, and energy, will bring you to rooms where your brain won’t.’”
Growing up, as her mother charted a successful career in finance and her father worked two jobs to support the family, Castle took that message to heart and followed its guidance. She excelled in school, at sports, and as a multi-talented musician who plays the guitar, bass, drums, alto saxophone, clarinet, and ukulele. All along the way, she remained deeply rooted in her family’s values and Caribbean heritage.
“My parents inspired me to work hard and believe that anything is possible,” Castle shares. With that inspiration and belief, her dream of becoming a lawyer took shape during her undergraduate years at the University of Ottawa. “I envisioned a legal career that would allow me to pursue my passion for music, fashion, and art,” Castle says. “With its thriving arts and entertainment industry, I knew that New York is the place to be. So, that’s where I applied to law school.”
The night before she found out that St. John’s Law had admitted her with a full-tuition scholarship, Castle had a dream. “I was walking through Manhattan, with tall buildings all around me, wearing business attire and carrying a briefcase. So, when I got St. John’s acceptance email, I was amazed how it all came to fruition.” Castle and her father made the eight-hour drive from Ottawa to Queens, and her mother flew to meet them for the move in. Just like that, Castle became a New Yorker.
While it’s hard to be away from home, Castle has found a welcoming community at St. John’s. “I’m very glad I chose this school at this time,” she says. “Our 1L class has the most Black students of any class in the Law School’s history. Seeing people who look like you in a space where that’s not usually the case matters. Meeting alumni who look like you, and who are doing what you want to do professionally, matters. Law school can be very different for first-generation students, especially students of color. It can feel disheartening and alienating. But St. John’s Law is committed to helping us feel, and know, that we belong here.”
As she pursues her legal studies, Castle is enjoying all that New York City has to offer, including the vibrant arts scene in Queens and Brooklyn. She’s also connecting with Law School alumni who are in the entertainment field. “If I’m going to work for 50 years, let it be something I love,” Castle says about her aspirations to be an in-house lawyer at a top record label. In the meantime, she’ll continue to bring her indomitable spirit to her classmates and others at St. John’s. “You never know what a joyful interaction can do for someone else,” Castle shares. “So I’m spreading that joy.”