Maclean’s sees York student as one of Canada’s ‘best and brightest’

At only 23, Michelle Dagnino has already earned an uncommon degree of respect for her achievements as a leader both in her community and internationally. Her work with women, children and people of colour has garnered Dagnino top honours in Maclean’s magazine’s special report “The best and the brightest: Twenty-five Faces for the Future”, which landed on Canadian newsstands yesterday.

Left: Michelle Dagnino

In addition, the first-year student at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School was recently named the 2004 YWCA Young Woman of Distinction, a recognition which will be bestowed on Thursday, May 20.

“Michelle is a truly remarkable young woman whom all Canadians can be truly proud,” said York President & Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden. “Her commitment to social justice for women, youth and visible minorities are impressive qualities by any measure.”

“These accolades are well deserved and we are extremely impressed by what Michelle has accomplished,” added Osgoode Hall Law School Dean Patrick Monahan. “She has established a new benchmark for youth activists and the next generation of legal professionals.”

In 2003, Dagnino graduated from York with a master’s degre in political science, with a focus on women, politics and workers’ rights worldwide. She plans to work in the field of women’s health, law and labour rights. She also obtained a BA Spec. Hons. from York in 2002.

Dagnino has been singled out for her exceptional abilities before. In 1998, she was honoured with the Weston Award, a national scholarship granted by the Canadian Merit Scholarship Foundation, whose winners are selected for their qualities of leadership and character, their record of service to the community as well as their academic promise.

From an early age, Dagnino has been involved with the fight for women’s and children’s rights, along with anti-racism work, particularly with youth. While still in high school, she founded Aspire, a mentorship group for young women that pairs them with community leaders to provide positive role models of women. In 2002, she founded Ruckus!, an anti- racism conference for youth of colour.

One of Dagnino’s most recent projects is: Where is the Love? The Commodification of Women in Hip Hop, a training program that highlights sexist images and messages that young women experience in popular culture. She initiated the project out of frustration with how women of colour were being portrayed by mainstream media.

As child labour campaign coordinator of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), Dagnino has travelled around the world to speak to governments, NGOs, local communities and trade unions to assist them in the fight against the use of child labour. A tireless advocate of children’s rights, she went on to be a delegate at the United Nations Special Session on the Child.

Dagnino has also received a grant from the Ontario Genomics Institute for her work on gene patenting and legal policy. It is the first time an Osgoode student has received the fellowship.