Riley Brandt, University of Calgary
June 6, 2017
Class of 2017: Law grad overcomes visual impairment with perseverance, firm friendship, and Cashmere
Tiana Knight was five years old, gingerly testing the bark of a tree branch to determine if it would hold her weight. She'd already scrambled almost six metres (20 feet) up behind her older brother Everett, who was perched above and waiting.
She was blind. So what. He was watching the park behind the backyard of their parents' southwest Calgary home, and there was no way she was going to let him hog the top spot.
"Perseverance has been part of my whole life," says Knight, 25, who has made a habit of letting nothing stand in her way when she's set her mind to accomplishing a goal. "I'm pretty competitive, too, so I'm used to testing myself and overcoming obstacles."
Just as she reached the upper limits of the tree by putting one hand over the other, feeling the best way forward, so has she gained her law degree, which UCalgary awarded to her when she attended convocation June 5 with friend and fellow law graduate Sarah Patrick.
"We're like siblings in that we always want each other to do better and we always celebrate when we do well," says Patrick, 23. The roommates have even secured articling positions at Calgary law firm Mosaicstone, and are readying to begin a new chapter of their lives as they move to the Kensington neighbourhood that will be just a walk to work.
While the two women are inseparable, helping each other in classes and travelling on adventures — they went to Costa Rica more than a month ago, surfing and waterfall hiking, staying in hostels — there is another mutual friend who's been with Knight all the way.
Cashmere (there's no surname, as befits a star) is, as Knight describes him, "a big boy." The 90-pound (41 kilogram) guide dog is a Labrador cross whose personality matches hers.
"The guide schools do a great job of matching people with dogs who are like them," says Knight. "He's funny and quirky and serious when he is working, but he can be a real puppy as well and he likes to play."
Cashmere awarded a Juris Dogtor degree
Cashmere crossed the convocation stage at Tiana’s side to a huge round of applause from all in attendance, and was awarded a Juris Dogtor degree (law students receive a Juris Doctor) for all of his hard work over the past three years. Cashmere is the second service dog to receive the honour from the law school.
Knight has mixed hard work with play in her life most often with sports. While at UCalgary, she has trained hard as a goalball player, attending the 2015 Parapan American Games in Toronto. Goalball is played exclusively by athletes with visual impairments, using a ball with bells inside. Two teams of three face off on an indoor court with tactile lines and goals at either end.
"I'll keep going with goalball, but it will be a new experience learning how to balance time at work with the other things that I love to do," says Knight.
Looking forward to a career in law
Her UCalgary experience was elevated by the Faculty of Law professors and staff, who ensured she got the best out of herself and the university. "A lot of the professors were just the best I've ever had. I could do interesting research. I've heard there is a lot more to law in the practice of it than in the classroom, and I'm looking forward to it."
Perhaps even more important than what we learn during classes at university is the friends we meet and what they can teach us about success.
Faculty of Law professor Sharon Mascher, who taught both Knight and Patrick, says she was struck by the women's strong friendship during their time at the university.
"Tiana and Sarah's friendship started in the very first days of their first year in law school," says Mascher. "Ever since then, they have walked arm in arm, often literally, through the challenges of being law students. Their friendship is undoubtedly a part of each other's success."