Student & human rights activist wins Lieutenant Governor's award

Silver medal for activist

University of British Columbia Okanagan graduate Dominica Patterson has been named the winner of the Lieutenant Governor's Silver Medal for Inclusion, Democracy and Reconciliation.

The recent grad is now studying for the Law School Admission Test, which she plans on taking in July. She's applied to law school, with a focus on international affairs.

It’s daunting, she says, thinking of the years of course work ahead.

“At certain points, you find yourself on the floor, exhausted. You wonder how you’re going to get through this. But you can’t quit, because you want to make a difference,” explains Patterson. 

“To have this recognition is something I never expected. I can now look back at those moments when I was on my knees—done and ready to give up. I wish I could have told myself then it was going to be worth it. This is an amazing end to my time at UBCO and I couldn’t be more humbled or more grateful. I am truly thankful.”

Patterson says she didn't take high school seriously, not exactly knowing what the future was going to hold. She ended up signing up for a cultural exchange to Benin, West Africa and left the rest up to fate.

“I assumed I was going on a big ‘save the planet’ project and I’d come back feeling like a great person,” she said.  

“To my benefit, it was not that type of program and it certainly opened my eyes. I quickly learned a lot about integrating into a new society, and the conflicts between foreign affairs, international aid and the lack of human rights many people struggle with.”

In Benin, she lived in a small rural village, worked on a community farm and also shadowed health care professionals in a nearby maternity clinic.

That's when Patterson became passionate about global affairs and human rights. After completing an associate degree in criminal justice she transferred to UBCO, bridging her credits towards a bachelor’s degree in international relations.

She quickly became involved in a number of organizations, most notably the non-profit group Radical Action with Migrants in Agriculture (RAMA).

“Working alongside human rights lawyers and executive organizers of the organization, I joined the fight to stand with temporary migrant workers in Canada against the structural racism, violence, isolation, discrimination and poor living and working conditions they often face while working here,” explained Patterson.

“I took each moment in each course as it came along. Then I made the dean’s list and suddenly I knew I had the possibility of getting where I wanted to go. I knew there was no giving up.”

Her professors started to notice her passion for justice.

“She has all of the hallmarks of being an outstanding scholar and someone who will be a practical change-maker around issues of inequality, inclusion and social justice,” says Professor Helen Yanacopulos economics, philosophy and political science department head. 

“Teaching Dominica has been not only inspiring but also intellectually stimulating and an absolute pleasure.”

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