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This is the fifteenth in our series of stories celebrating the outstanding accomplishments of youth in our community. These inspirational young adults are enriching our lives with their passion and commitment to the betterment of society.

Liticia Gardner

Unknown-5This past November hardly a day went by without the protest against Trans Mountain drilling on Burnaby Mountain making the news headlines. While many of us sat at home wondering what we could do to show our support for the Burnaby protestors, Liticia was on the front lines. Just two months earlier, upon listening to a passionate, inspirational and motivating speech on Burnaby Mountain, given by Mayor Derek Corrigan, Liticia realized that she could no longer stand by and watch from the sidelines. She had to become involved in local efforts to stop the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline. And so Liticia joined the SFU Activist Network on Facebook and began volunteering her time sitting vigil at the blockade that had recently been set up.

Unknown-3Liticia was born in Kamloops, BC and moved to Victoria when she was eight. She attended James Bay Elementary, Central Middle School, Oak Bay High School and graduated from Reynolds Secondary where she was awarded “Top Psychology Student” in 2012. Like so many of the inspirational youth we have been featuring over the past year, Liticia was extremely active in extracurricular activities during her high school years. For example, while in Grade 12, Liticia started the Best Buddies program at Reynolds, after volunteering as a Best Buddy at Oak Bay High from 2010 to 2012.

Unknown-2Some of her other activities at Oak Bay High included organizing a school wide composting program and helping to organize the annual Rubber Ducky Race in Bowker Creek with the schools’ Environment Club. In 2011, Liticia competed in the Youth Philanthropy Initiative and was part of a group of students that achieved a $5,000 grant for the Victoria Youth Clinic, a not-for-profit primary heath care service for youth aged 12 to 24 years.

Liticia is also accomplished in soccer, which she started playing when she was 5 years old. She continues to play in intramural leagues at Simon Fraser University (SFU), where she began university this past September, having previously played competitively on the Bays United Gold Under 18 girls team and with the Lakehill Division 1 Women’s team.

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In addition to soccer, Liticia is an avid scuba diver. In April 2013, she was certified with the Open Water certificate in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico while on a trip visiting Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. She immediately fell in love with diving and subsequently participated in ten dives while in Mexico, including two dives in underwater caverns (termed cenotes). Liticia was in awe with the diversity and beauty of the ocean life she witnessed during her numerous reef dives. She plans to undertake her first cold-water dive in Victoria some time this winter.

Following high school, Liticia attended Camosun College for two years. There she took university transfer courses and achieved the Dean’s List status in Winter 2013 with an A+ average. Not surprisingly, Liticia was awarded a Ken Caple College Transfer Entrance Scholarship to SFU where she is currently majoring in Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, with a minor in Geography.

Unknown-11In her heart, Liticia is an activist and an advocate for a number of important social justice and environmental issues, viewing them through a lens of anti-oppression. When asked what caring about social justice meant to her, she immediately responded, “fighting for more equity as opposed to simply fighting for equality”. Liticia is outgoing and passionate and is committed to raising broader public awareness of the fact that some people inherently do not have the same access to much of what many of us take for granted. And she is not afraid to take direct action when she believes advocacy is needed.

While at Camosun, Liticia was a member of the Psychology Club and the Women’s Centre. As a member of the University of Victoria Anti-Violence Project, she participated in 40 hours of training on sexualized violence and how to support both targets and perpetrators of violence. Currently working as a volunteer with SFU’s Women’s Centre, Liticia has been involved in the creation of “Safe(r) Places” at the university, where people can come to a safe space to openly discuss issues. She also initiated and runs a “radical mental health group” through Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group (SFPIRG), hosting bi-weekly meetings on topics around mental health and well being.

Liticia likes to “think outside of the normal”. She cares deeply about issues related to equity, oppression and mental health. Inspired by poet Maya Angelou, whom she describes as “the most eloquent person I have ever heard”, Liticia urged us to listen to Maya recite her poem And Still I Rise. We did and we too were inspired.

Unknown-10Liticia was profoundly affected by the demonstrations on Burnaby Mountain. It was a daily ritual for her to spend time at the blockade, not only reading and doing homework, but also supporting other activists by providing tea, food and access to showers. She told us that “every day was really different” on the mountain; some days were “really empowering” while others were “somber” or “depressing”. She described time when there was a general mood of hopelessness when people “felt the only thing you could do was cross the line”. Liticia was so committed to the blockade that when she learned via text that Kinder Morgan was on site and starting to drill, she “ran all the way across campus and down a muddy path” to immediately take her place at the blockade. Liticia was frequently pictured in media reports standing on the front lines of the blockade. While she saw many of her friends get arrested, she herself did not cross the police line.

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Liticia credits her mother with teaching her about “resiliency, hard work and perseverance”. She describes her mother as the “epitome of resiliency”. Liticia was born when her mother Alyshia was only 17 and “we went through a lot together”. Alyshia returned to school after Liticia was born, earning a nursing degree with distinction. For the past year, Liticia has helped her mother with her business Nurse Next Door, handling Human Resources for the business. We quickly recognized that Alyshia has clearly been the most influential person in Liticia’s life. But Liticia also credits Lucas Crawford, a professor in Gender Studies at SFU, as “one of the people who have put a lot of time into me”.

Committing herself to environmental issues will be a life-long pursuit for Liticia. Of this she is certain. Liticia noted that the environment is where Indigenous issues, women’s issues, as well as issues of social class and social justice all come together. Her long-term goal is to become a university professor, undertaking teaching and research in Gender Studies. And when she undoubtedly accomplishes this goal, she’ll inspire a new generation of youth to work towards the betterment of society. Of this, we are certain.

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