Camosun College Student on a Mission for Climate Justice and Social Innovation
Savannah Barratt is studying geography, English and environmental technologies at Camosun, while working two part-time jobs and leading social justice activities in the community.
“Excited, curious and busy are my family’s general descriptors for me,” says university transfer student Savannah Barratt, who is studying geography, English and environmental technologies at Camosun, while working two part-time jobs and leading social justice activities in the community. “I really like the idea of versatility, and tying my education to where my passions are.”
A former youth in care, and recipient of the B.C. government’s Provincial Tuition Waiver Program, Barratt doesn’t let the past define her future plans.
The tuition waiver program has opened the door for 1,190 former youth in care since it was introduced in the fall of 2019. Camosun College has the second highest number of students benefitting from the program with a total of 98 students as of October 2019.
“At 13, I had an onset of debilitating neurological and mental health illnesses that just kind of erupted,” she says. “Within a year I went from living at home and being in school to being institutionalized, in a wheelchair, and until the age of 20 I was either living in hospitals or group homes.”
A couple of years ago, she turned her life around, got involved in community activities and enrolled at Camosun. In college, she is thriving, and is passionate about exploring new ideas from an interdisciplinary perspective.
“There are a lot of opportunities here for students who want to investigate things,” she says. “Camosun brings the definition of applied learning to life in every way possible and I love that.”
In May, while still a part-time student, she started working with the College’s Camosun Innovates department and Technology Access Centre, quickly rolling up her sleeves and pitching in on a variety of exciting engineering, design and manufacturing projects.
“I really like the versatility of this work space,” she says. “It’s not just manufacturing; the whole point of this space is innovation and it’s always evolving, so that means as a student I’m learning something new every day, in a fast-paced workplace environment.”
Some of her notable accomplishments including serving as a Camosun Innovates ambassador and planning activities for a high-level delegation from the Philippines, showcasing Camosun’s advanced technological capabilities. She sometimes lends her expertise and creative thinking abilities to her colleague’s manufacturing and engineering projects.
On these projects, she credits her unique background for giving her advantages in seeing connections and opportunities that others may miss. “I have really good insights on policy as it relates to youth in care and how institutions work and how things are resilient and how you can adapt,” she says. “These principles of adaptability apply to living human beings but they also apply to innovation in different fields like the strength of bridges and engineering projects when you’re seeking solutions to problems. It’s a process of how you apply thought, just like everything we do or become.”
Outside of Camosun, she works part-time in retail and as a web administrator. As a community leader, she is a passionate environmental activist. She is a lead organizer for the group Climate Justice Victoria, helping to organize several climate strikes and public engagement activities on topics related to climate change.
“I’ve lived on Vancouver Island my whole life and environment has always been important to me,” she says. “Climate change has always struck a powerful chord and working on climate justice and with zero waste groups and organising protests, I’ve just learned a whole bunch of skills, and entered so many interesting interdisciplinary spaces with a passion and willingness to learn as I go.”
Looking ahead, she envisions a career where she can combine many of her unique strengths and interests. “I’m good at the people side but I’m also good at the science side,” she says. “The direction I’m looking to take will lead me to either a career as a geographer or as a sustainability consultant. I want to bridge career silos and find a way to work towards a sustainable future for the planet. I’ve survived long enough to be able to come out on the other side, and now I’ve learned to thrive again.”