Third-year student Rachelle Patrick, from Ottawa, is advocating on behalf of children and youth in New Brunswick as part of a Human Rights internship class at St. Thomas.

Patrick, who is pursuing a double major in Human Rights and Criminology and a minor in Political Science said being matched with the Office of the New Brunswick Child and Youth Advocate brought together everything she’d like to do with her career.

Working primarily with the advocacy and outreach branch of the office, most of Patrick’s work is communications-based: running the office’s social media accounts, preparing newsletters and email blasts, and sharing news and scholarly articles related to child and youth rights. She also engages in research for the deputy advocate and senior legal council.

“One of the things we do is work to interpret the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and apply it to cases the office is working on,” she said.
 
For Patrick, the “real-world” aspect of the experience is invaluable and has opened her eyes to how much of an impact her education and her work can have on others.

“We’re not looking at cases from 20 years ago; these cases are happening now and need the office’s attention,” she said.

“So much can happen to children that they don’t have any control over. This office fights to give vulnerable children the same chances that other children have. It has kind of changed what I want to do with my career—seeing the child and youth aspect of law. I didn’t realize how personal this internship would be for me.”

The class, designed and taught by Dr. Amanda DiPaolo, was inspired by a retired course taught at STU years ago. It provides students majoring in Human Rights exposure to the practice of human rights. Students contribute to projects and initiatives. They also complete a written report and research paper that encourages them to reflect on the relationship between the internship and their formal studies.
 
“I hope students get a sense of how rewarding advocacy can be, despite the amount of work that goes into advancing human rights causes,” DiPaolo said. “I also hope students interested in this kind of career gain valuable experience that may help lead to employment after graduation.”
 
Other students in the class have been placed with organizations such as Nature Trust, an environmental group; No One Is Illegal, a grassroots migrant justice movement; and the Imprint Youth Association, a grassroots association advocating for the LGBTQIA+ community.

Patrick said experiential learning is an important part of the university experience, and she has certainly lived up to her own advice.

During her time at STU, Patrick has competed in the United States as part of the Moot Court program, acted as the executive advertising chair for the STU Chapter of Global Brigades which will take her to Honduras in May, and is part of the Model United Nations class travelling to Boston to compete at the Harvard Model United Nations.

“The tagline ‘the small university of big opportunities’ literally couldn’t be more true for me. It sounds cliché, but all the opportunities I’ve had here really have shaped my learning experience. I wouldn’t change my decision to come here for anything. The university experience at STU is so connected to who you are as a person. It's more about what you want than it is about fitting you in to anything.”
 
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