Editor’s Note: The following is a portion of a speech given to the Rotary Club of Winnipeg
By Quinn Ferris
The Emerging Issues in Human Rights Course, formerly titled Rotary Adventures in Global Citizenship (RAGC) helped me build on the experience and knowledge I had gained through my Rotary Exchange time in Mexico.
This two-week summer course at the University of Winnipeg is for Grade 12 Graduates who are about to enter a college or university program or are already in university. It was developed as a partnership between the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, Global College at the University of Winnipeg and Rotary District 5550 and their World Peace Partnership initative.
I was blown away with the course material and how interactive it was. We were involved in many different kinds of lectures and class discussions on human rights. Not only did we cover interesting material within our normal lectures, but we also got to visit many unique places that were relevant to our course material. The class kicked off with a trip to Folklarama on the first day where we visited both the Irish and Ethiopian pavilions. The Canadian Museum for Human Rights hosted us for three days of classes and also gave us a tour of the exhibits. We visited Winnipeg Harvest where we got a tour of the entire facility and learned about fighting hunger in our community.
We were also fortunate to have guest lecturers come in to speak to us. Dr. Art Mickie came to speak to us about the history of racism in Canada and Japanese Canadians fighting for equal rights. Shahina Siddiqui spoke to us about Islamophobia in our society today, along with the role of the government fighting it. David Newman spoke to us about the opportunities available with Rotary and choosing careers paths. Eduardo de Costa, a Rotary Peace Fellow who is originally from Brazil spoke to us as well and told us about the opportunities and scholarships given to him through Rotary, including his time studying at Duke University.
Marilou McPhedran was our professor, and although she wasn’t a guest speaker, her background and accomplishments speak for themselves. Before becoming head of the Human Rights department at the University of Winnipeg, she worked as an international human rights lawyer for the United Nations. Her knowledge and experience inspired the class and she knew how to make people come together. Our class became extremely close which I think was a testament to Marilou’s ability.
The course was my first ever university at that level and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little intimidated going into that first day. That changed quickly once the course got underway and looking back it was amazing how much I learned in such a short amount of time. Having the financial aid of the bursary from Rotary helped lot too!
After coming back from Mexico, I had just under two months to work before I started school in the fall. The course helped prepare me academically and really made me feel more comfortable once I began my time at the University of Manitoba in the fall. Gaining the experience of writing academic papers along with making connections with both professors and other students was extremely helpful.
Rotary is a special organization and its people represent that. I can’t express enough my sincere gratitude and appreciation for what Rotary has done in life, and what it continues to do for young people. I would like to thank Frank Cosway, David Newman and the entire Winnipeg Rotary Club for having me this afternoon and for the bursary I was given to attend the human rights course. I’d also like to thank Paulette Connery for her support in sending me on exchange and Ray Ruth for his ongoing work with RYLA and the Youth Exchange program. I am confident these programs will see many more years of success in changing students’ lives.