This year’s valedictorian is a future physician with a passion for social justice. Enriched Science student Meygan Brody has been selected to address Dawson’s Class of 2021 at Virtual Graduation on June 30.
“I’m absolutely honoured,” Meygan said in an interview with Dawson’s Communications Office. “I really grew as a student and as a person during my time at Dawson, so this is a very meaningful celebration of my experience. I owe so much of that personal growth to the friends I’ve made and to all the people I’ve met at Dawson—I’m honoured to now be representing our community as valedictorian.”
Nominated by Enriched Science co-coordinator
In his nomination letter, Chris Whittaker, Meygan’s teacher and co-coordinator of the Enriched Science Program, says she is “an incredible student who not only excels in her academic life but has engaged in volunteer and extra-curricular activities – including Enriched Science seminars, and activities such as the Science on tourne! competition. Most exceptionally however, Meygan has created an amazing initiative that allows peers to engage with each other to share perspectives and make the world a better place.”
That initiative started a year ago when Meygan was inspired to take action by the Black Lives Matter movement. She had always been passionate about social justice but had previously thought that her peers did not care that much.
“I was struck by the overwhelming social media response to the murder of George Floyd,” she said and realized that she had been wrong. They did care but did not know how to take action. “After many conversations with friends, I assembled an executive team and after lots of hard work, Bonsai Hangouts was born.”
Meygan’s Bonsai Hangouts initiative for social justice
Bonsai Hangouts take place once a month on Zoom and participants are asked to read articles and watch videos on a specific topic before the meeting and then gather to discuss. The materials are posted on https://www.bonsaihangouts.com/.
Through Bonsai Hangouts, Meygan is helping her fellow students develop tools for having civil discussions on topics such as cancel culture, gender-based violence, and Black History Month. “I’ve gained an even greater understanding of the power of education and empathic conversation. …Bonsai is not specifically a Dawson project, but it definitely has a Dawson touch. Three of five execs are Dawson students and about a third of participants are from Dawson.”
“I’m very connected to my Québécois heritage and I value inclusivity, so it’s important to me that we also offer francophone resources and breakout rooms,” she said.
Many ways to experience Dawson
When Meygan began at Dawson in the fall 2019 semester, she felt overwhelmed and lonely. “I was scared I would not fit in, but that was never the point,” she said. “There are so many ways of being a Dawson student and there are so many ways of being myself. I’m proud to be Meygan the scientist, Meygan the Bonsai president, Meygan the friend, Meygan the volunteer- all at the same time.”
Meygan’s advice to new students would be to join activities, clubs and initiatives in the first semester to fit in and meet people. She regrets that she did not get involved in her first semester and thinks she would have been happier from the beginning. Her experience has included volunteering as a peer mentor, which she loves, participating in Science Fest and volunteering at Open House.
Redefining the Dawson experience
About her unique CEGEP experience, Meygan said: “We didn’t get the full Dawson experience, and we’ve forever been changed by the pandemic. Graduations are always a time for endings and for new beginnings, but I think my cohort is particularly happy to be moving on. …We’ve redefined the Dawson experience, and how we’ve been able to find joy in it.”
Apart from addressing the pandemic in her remarks as valedictorian, Meygan will mention the social upheavals of the past two years. “I think my cohort has come to a greater understanding of what fairness, respect, and justice are. We know how bigoted the world can be, and we’re speaking up about it. I’d like to talk about what it means to “have a voice” and to take a stand—and on the flip side, just how important listening is as well,” she said of her speech, which is in development.
Future plans and gratitude for Dawson experience
Meygan will be starting in pre-med at McGill University in the fall. “I’m super excited,” she said. “I worked really hard for it, and I’m so thrilled that I now have the opportunity to become a physician, and to give care to others in such a special way.”
Even though there is excitement to move on, Dawson will remain a cherished experience. “I don’t know what it is exactly, but Dawson attracts all these insanely fun, open-minded, passionate people,” she said. “I’ve met some of my best friends here, and they’re friends I know I’ll keep for life.”
“I’m grateful to Dawson because it showed me the value of education, of resilience, of open-mindedness, and of empathy. I’m grateful to Dawson because it deepened my passions for science and for social justice, and provided me with the tools and opportunities to act on those passions. Above all, I’m grateful to Dawson because it gave me a community full of kind, creative, determined people – a community that I am honoured to represent as valedictorian.”
You can hear Meygan’s Valedictorian Address at Dawson’s Virtual Graduation, which will be live on June 30 at 7 p.m. here: https://www.dawsoncollege.qc.ca/campus-life/graduation-ceremony