When Saige Girouard arrived at Okanagan College to have her photo taken during a grad experience event this week, she took home much more than a snapshot. She left with provincial recognition of her outstanding efforts to bring people together.
Girouard, a Bachelor of Business Administration student, became the first OC student to ever receive the Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for Inclusion, Democracy and Reconciliation.
The Lieutenant Governor’s Medal has been a symbol of academic excellence since 1979. In 2019, eligibility for the Lieutenant Governor’s Medal was expanded to recognize post-secondary students with outstanding contributions in support of inclusion, democracy and reconciliation, on or off campus.
Girouard, who identifies as Métis, forged a bond with an Indigenous peer in her second year of studies over their shared curiosity to learn more about their respective cultures. This peer was later instrumental in encouraging Girouard to take the leap towards cultural reconnection. After winning a bursary to attend the Indigenous Women’s Leadership Summit (IWLS), Girouard recognized that she wasn’t the only individual who felt disconnected from her culture.
“I never thought I was Indigenous enough to be involved in my own culture, but at the summit I learned I wasn’t the only Indigenous person who felt that way. That shared experience made me realize I could use my power and privilege, combined with the skills I was learning in my education, to do something about it.”
As part of her honours research project, Girouard collaborated with OC’s Aboriginal Services department to uncover how and why Indigenous students self-identify and engage with Indigenous services and supports. This led to a deep-dive into the history of colonization, in addition to helping peers become responsive and action reconciliation in their personal and professional roles. She was also the student leader in the Fraser Institute’s Student Leaders Colloquium in 2020, leading discussions on the complex policy issues within society and the global economy, in addition to sharing her personal story of exploring her Indigenous identity as a panelist for the Spring Series of Pulling Together. She was also an active member of the Okanagan Business Students’ Association, exemplifying how to hold space for conversations on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action.
“My education went above and beyond my expectations for post-secondary studies, but I never expected to discover this appreciation and understanding for my culture and heritage,” she said. “OC has done a lot for me, so I want to give back in any way I can.”
The medal presentation was very memorable for Girouard, as she was unaware she had been selected to be an award recipient. After donning her cap and gown and entering the photo area, Girouard was bestowed with the award by Okanagan College President Neil Fassina.
“We are a reflection of our learners and their passion and commitment to make this world a better place,” said Fassina. “Saige’s story is an example of how students sharing their perspectives, experience and knowledge can transform communities in positive ways. On behalf of Okanagan College, I want to express how incredibly proud we are to have Saige in our College community, and how pleased we are to have been able to present her with this significant honour in person.”
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