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Loyalist College graduate bound for Africa

By Ashliegh Gehl


CHIAPAS, Mexico. Former International Support Worker student, Michelle Newlands, learns about adobe brick making. Newlands' international experience and journalism training at Loyalist landed her a job in Ghana. Photo by Gary Warren.

Most Loyalist College graduates return to their communities to find work, but at least one grad has her sights set on Africa.

This June Michelle Newlands, 22, is headed to Ghana to teach journalists-in-training about the importance of human rights in the media.

Last April, Newlands was the communications intern for Journalists for Human Rights, an organization out of Toronto focused on rights-based media.

“They asked me what I was looking for out of my internship with head office and I was telling them that I wanted to improve my journalism skills with a focus on human rights,” said Newlands.

“I wanted to understand the domestic process of creating international programs. The deliverables. The process. The requirements. I wanted to develop the ability to facilitate dialogue about human rights issues.”

That’s when Newlands set her sights on the on the rights media education officer position at the African University College of Communications in Ghana.

“When I found this position it was perfect,” said Newlands. “It was all of the things that I was looking for. It had the facilitation, the education, the journalism, the international travel and the ability to build community.”

Newlands also spearheaded Loyalist’s journalists for human rights chapter.

Kathryn Sheppard is the international programs coordinator for journalists for human rights and worked with Newlands during her internship.

“You need to have a good background in journalism for these positions so that you know what you’re talking about,” says Sheppard. “And from there she also has done a lot of international work, working in Mexico, facilitating workshops. She’s got a great academic background plus experience.”

When Newlands was in her second year of Loyalist’s Print Journalism program she travelled to Mexico with Quest Internacional. It’s an organization with an experiential learning platform, giving students the opportunity to see Mexico beyond the resort.

“From there I started doing a lot of community volunteer work,” says Newlands. “I started getting involved with a lot of social groups locally and internationally. I started to get involved with inclusive community initiatives. So breaking down the barriers of stereotypes. Creating a sense of equality between people and giving them a reason to get to know someone they may otherwise not have the chance to know.”

Newlands started to use her media skills by applying them to non-profit organizations, giving them an identity on the web. She did freelance work for Outpost Magazine and Toronto Tourism before enrolling in Loyalist’s International Support Worker program.

The ISW program is what eventually brought Newlands to her new job but it’s her journalism roots that give her the ability to blend her passion for international work and writing together.