It was several firsts for Chelsea Gladstone May 22 as the Haida UBC grad walked across the stage at the university to accept her Bachelor of Arts degree.
Not only was she the first in her family to graduate from a university but just before the official convocation ceremony, she was presented with the prestigious Lieutenant-Governor’s Silver Medal, the first UBC student to be recognized in this fashion.
The medal was established in 1979 for students in vocational and career programs of less than two years but was expanded this year to include students in four-year degree programs who, in addition to their studies, promoted inclusion and reconciliation in their extra-curricular activities.
That criteria fit Gladstone, 21, perfectly through a combination of her double major in First Nations Indigenous studies and gender, race, sexuality and social justice and her work to establish a support network for UBC Indigenous students.
“We worked to create a safe and welcoming place for Indigenous students,” explained Gladstone of a project that began two years ago. “It was important for students to feel welcomed and to give them a voice, to create a community.”
Through her leadership role, a $50,000 budget through the university’s student association has been established to support that network and a room has been set aside for the use of Indigenous students.
In many ways, it was an opportunity for Gladstone to pay it forward.
She credits her academic advisor, Karlene Harvey, in acting as a mentor over her years at UBC and Gladstone’s leadership role in the Indigenous gave her the opportunity to mentor others.
“It’s amazing how one person can make a difference,” Gladstone said.
That kind of advocacy work more than ever convinced Gladstone to consider a career in law as a way of continuing her passion of supporting Indigenous causes.
She’s now focused on writing the law school admissions test this September with the goal of beginning studies at the Peter A. Allard School of Law at UBC next year.
It’s still early to predict where Gladstone’s path might take her in the years ahead but she is convinced of one thing.
“My goal is to be an advocate for the Haida and to advance my community,” she said.
Gladstone received other recognition during her years at UBC — she’s a Wesbrook scholar through academic work, community involvement and sports and a recipient of the Premier’s Undergraduate Scholarship.
From Skidegate, Gladstone’s Haida name is Xanjuu Gwang, which translates as “travelling around.”
Haida Gwaii Observer
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