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New experiences, community service motivate Stelly’s secondary valedictorian

Jasmeen Lalari credits her grandparents for instilling her with a desire to help others
Jasmeen Lalari delivered the valedictorian speech at Stelly’s secondary’s graduation recognition ceremony. Lalari plans to study law at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. (Photo courtesy of Jasmeen Lalari)

Stelly’s Secondary valedictorian Jasmeen Lalari has a bone to pick with those who may question the readiness of this year’s graduating class to enter a world defined by crises.

“I think we don’t give ourselves enough credit,” said Lalari. “Our high school experience has been a harsh reality a lot of the time, but we gained so much experience in just being flexible with life and understanding that there are more things to find — happiness and community.

“Our grad class has done an amazing job in the last two years in staying connected and having good morale and school spirit during all of the chaos of the past few years.”

Concerns of older generations about the fitness of younger generations to face reality are part and parcel of generational conflicts and younger generations have long used occasions such as graduations to counter such criticism while asserting their future agency. But Lalari has very much lived the words she plans to deliver.

The list detailing Lalari’s service to her school and community beyond is long and impressive. She has been a driving force in her school’s food drives and helped to renovate a women’s shelter in the Greater Victoria area. These experiences in service of marginalized groups has also shaped her future career choice as Lalari plans to study Canadian law at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom.

The three-year program combines undergraduate with graduate-level courses and will help accelerate Lalari’s path toward becoming a lawyer. While she hasn’t yet settled on a specific area of law, she can see herself working as a legal advisor or working in child welfare or with groups like the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre.

RELATED: Student-led food drive in Central Saanich sets new record

Lalari said her passion for the law grew through her school service, especially her work in helping to renovate the women’s shelter.

“I wanted to see if I could do something in my career where I can help this part of my community,” she said. A second-generation Punjabi-Canadian, Lalari also credits her grandparents for raising her to always give back to the community, a perspective that she has carried from childhood into youth and early adulthood.

“I think the greatest thing in life is getting to work with different people with different perspectives, and I think that is what mostly motivates me,” she said.

Other factors, some communal, some personal, also shaped her decision to study Canadian law in the United Kingdom. For one, the University of Birmingham offers a specialty in Canadian law and the location itself offers Lalari the opportunity to study Canadian law at its historical roots.

The choice also allows her to continue to pursue her Bhangra dancing, an essential part of herself for some 16 years, which also serves as connection to her Punjabi-Canadian roots and community.

A dual-citizen, Lalari also has extended family in the Birmingham area through her mother’s side.

“It kind of feels like home, but it is also something out of my comfort zone,” she said. “I’m very excited to go and experience something different, live somewhere different and keep discovering my passions.”

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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