Originally from Prince Rupert, Jillian LeBlanc works in the government in Ottawa. She wants to give back. (Isobel LeBlanc)

Rupertite starts politics scholarship for female students

Jillian LeBlanc started a scholarship for students from her hometown who are interested in politics

Just six years after graduating from Charles Hays Secondary School, a former student is offering a scholarship to female students in Prince Rupert who are interested in politics.

When Jillian LeBlanc graduated from high school in 2012, she moved from the North Coast community to the centre of Canadian politics: Ottawa. Her experience in politics started in her first year of university when she volunteered on Parliament Hill.

“I remember walking through the doors of Parliament and being like, ‘This is the coolest thing in the whole world,’ and getting super excited about that,” LeBlanc said.

In her second year, LeBlanc moved back to B.C. to work for the MP in the Smithers riding. She said the position gave her hands-on experience of what it’s like to help run a constituency office.

She’s since been a part of Equal Voice National, an organization that supports the election of women in politics across party lines in all levels of government. LeBlanc worked with digital and youth engagement for the Daughters of the Vote initiative. Now, she works as a digital communications specialist for the government and is based in Ottawa.

LeBlanc hopes she can use her experience as a young woman in politics to help others from her hometown.

“I was really interested in finding a tangible way, now that I’m out of university, to give back to the community. I’m very grateful to everyone who’s helped me thus far. I hope that I’m able to extend the same courtesy I was afforded with so much support from other people. Especially to women from my home community,” LeBlanc said. “It’s really important to me that everyone has the same opportunity that I’ve had to be in this space, to have their voice heard and to potentially make a difference in politics.”

LeBlanc’s scholarship will be open for application through the scholarship book CHSS distributes to graduating students with information about opportunities they can apply for. The successful applicant will receive $1,000 and be mentored by LeBlanc, who said she’s valued having mentors in the field.

“It can be challenging coming from a more rural area to an urban area,” LeBlanc said. “It’s really hard for someone who’s not from a rural area to understand some of the unique challenges you face.”

The scholarship is open to female-identifying students who have been accepted into a university or college program such as public affairs, policy and politics. But LeBlanc said anyone with an expressed interest in politics or leadership should apply. Students from CHSS and Pacific Coast School are eligible, and the award is not based on academic merit.

“There’s been an increased conversation, especially in the last couple of years, around the culture around women in politics and how that can perhaps bar women from entering that space — and all levels of government. With the more recent discussions and public discourse, it was time,” LeBlanc said about starting the scholarship.

“My experience as a woman thus far, I think, is very different from a male experience. If you look at House of Commons and other legislatures around the country and around the world, the rates of women are very very low,” she said.

“I think it would be really beneficial to have more women in this space for Canadians, for British Columbians, for people in the community to have more female voices heard.”

Interested students can find more information in the scholarship book once it’s released in March, and LeBlanc welcomes students looking to learn more to contact her directly through her Twitter @jillian_leblanc or on Facebook.

READ MORE: 13 per cent increase in Indigenous high school completion



keili.bartlett@thenorthernview.com

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