Meet Douglas College’s first recipient of the Outstanding Young Alumni Award

By Carly Whetter, Foundation and Alumni Relations

Child and Youth Care alum Meredith Graham has achieved a lot in her life. She’s a spoken word artist, workshop facilitator, keynote speaker, consultant, a Youth Transition Conference Facilitator with the Ministry of Children and Family Development and advocate for changes inside the mental health, education and government care systems.

But Meredith has also experienced many challenges. She’s a former youth from government care who has journeyed through abuse, homelessness, poverty and mental illness.

Today, Meredith uses these adversities to serve and advocate for vulnerable youth across the country, and as the inspiration for her company name, Symphony of ResiliencyTM.

“In my work, I often emphasize how I am where I am today because of the people who chose to be instruments in the symphony of my life,” says Meredith. “Because of my own experience, it’s really important to me to create the same opportunities for young people from care that many people from parented and caregiver homes have access to. I want to empower them to be the conductors of their own symphony.”

Rising up, against the odds

This year, Douglas College Alumni Relations is recognizing Meredith with the inaugural Outstanding Young Alumni award for her professional success and her contributions to youth in the community.

“Meredith found joy in life and decided she should not keep that joy to herself,” says Tracy Green, Meredith’s nominator for the award, who met her while working at the Douglas College Foundation. “Meredith’s advocacy work is a demonstration that we all have a role to play in our community. Her own resilience is a message that if we look for it, we’ll find the same in ourselves, and that if we are struggling, she’ll be the first person who offers to help you find it.”

“This award is really humbling for me,” Meredith says. “It’s not so much about what it means for me, but what it means for my people. You can have mental illness, you can be homeless, you can be from care, you can be a person of colour, you can have everything stacked against you, but you can rise.” 

Read more: Keeping an eye on Douglas: How this alum helps give the gift of education

Finding her true calling

Meredith’s post-secondary journey started with a diploma in the performing arts. But she quickly realized it wasn’t her true calling.

“I thought I was going to grow up to be the next Meryl Streep,” jokes Meredith. “I still love performing and theatre, but ultimately it didn’t feel like it gave purpose to my life. It didn’t feel like a way in which I could give back.”

For Meredith, giving back looked a lot like what the youth workers who had played an important role in her own life did for her.

“I was really drawn to their ability to care for people in a different way. I wanted to be like them, to be that person for youth – my siblings in the system, as I call them,” Meredith says.

She discovered the Bachelor of Child and Youth Care program at Douglas, and knew it was the right fit. “Douglas College offered one of the best programs in Canada at a college-level tuition. It made sense.”

It wasn’t just the program that drew Meredith to Douglas, but the ability to build relationships with her classmates and instructors in a close-knit community. Meredith took this passion for connecting with others to the Douglas Students’ Union (DSU) Board of Directors, where she served as the Disabled Students’ Representative. 

“I learned a lot of skills as part of the DSU. I learned how to make myself heard in rooms full of powerful people at the provincial government level and how to advocate for people and ask questions,” says Meredith. “It was really empowering to learn how we’re all in this together, figuring out how to do better and be better with and for others.”

When it comes to words of wisdom for Douglas College graduates, she shared this short poem:

May you, now that you’ve graduated, be wildly elevated, highlighted, and celebrated.
May you, now that you’ve exhausted your best and reached the crest, rest.
May you consider and ponder your individual and community responsibility, and the abounding opportunities, to be an instrument in a person’s symphony of resiliency.
And may you amplify the music of the marginalized – the ones the world tries to write off the page.
And then may you make music that moves.
And, if you ever feel or fear you’ve lost your words, know that I will sit and sing with you.

A poem by Meredith Graham

For more information on the Outstanding Young Alumni award visit the Douglas College website.

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