“If something is important to you, it is important to other people too, and you need to find those people and collaborate to achieve the biggest difference. A real effort at something, no matter how small, is more important than a perfect hypothetical accomplishment.”
Yeon Soo Ha
2022 Top 30 Under 30
Which SDG are you most passionate about and why?
I am passionate about Goal 4: Quality Education because an inclusive academic approach that promotes lifelong learning opportunities for all is critical for child and community development. Working at an educational institution, I am witness to how transformative education can be to an individual and their family and community. I also recognize that it is a lifelong process—by the time a student reaches University, they need to have traversed many years of schooling and learning inside and outside of the classroom; each of those experiences must be barrier-free and accessible. Education is an agent for personal and societal change, which is why accessibility to high-quality education throughout one’s life is central to my vision and work.
What Issues Are You Most Passionate About and What Inspires You To Take Action?
I am passionate about access to education. In my time working at the University of Alberta and through volunteer experiences working with newcomer learners, including youth and adult students, I learned the importance of lifelong learning and the difference education could make in one’s quality of life. My own parents’ experience was also unique and difficult as their education credentials were not recognized upon moving to Canada. Working with newcomer students, volunteering in educational settings, and my own family’s experiences are all experiences that have inspired me to work to remove barriers for students in higher education, no matter how invisible they are to others.
How have your communities and those around you helped you to take action and make a difference?
As a racialized immigrant woman, I am so grateful for my community, where I can connect with others who have similar experiences of being racialized or marginalized. They have always listened deeply to my concerns and validated, motivated, and believed in me. Sometimes, it can feel really lonely to be someone who easily recognizes shortcomings in society and wishes to immediately address them when most would rather maintain the status quo. Regardless, my community has shown me that I am never alone and that they will always be there to support me in taking action for the causes that matter most to me.
I spent a lot of my life believing that my perspective was not needed. I would convince myself that someone else would step up and do a better job. I am happy to grow into the realization that my contribution is important because others believe in it, too. The causes, movements, and initiatives we care about are important, and we must maintain the drive to continue our pursuit for change with the communities integral to our motivation.
What do partnership and collaboration mean to you in your life and your work?
Partnership and collaboration mean recognizing everybody’s abilities to contribute to an issue and adapting to highlight each contribution in order to achieve a common, mutually beneficial goal.