Development & Alumni Relations Office 

Student of the Year 2022 is "true role model" Natasha Oviedo

Student of the Year Natasha Oveido
Thursday 7 July 2022

Natasha Oviedo, a postgraduate student in the School of History, Anthropology, Politics and Philosophy, has been named the Allstate NI Queen’s Student of the Year 2022.

Natasha – who is currently completing a MA in Conflict Transformation and Social Justice – has been described as a “true role model for her fellow students” for her work supporting newcomers to Northern Ireland over the past two years. 

Arriving in Belfast from southern California in 2020, Natasha soon became involved as a volunteer with organisations like Horn of Africa People’s Aid NI and the Centre for Democracy and Peacebuilding.

Identifying the growing need for accessible English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes, Natasha founded LASI – the Language and Solidarity Initiative, a student-led programme designed to help refugees, asylum seekers and migrants.

LASI expanded rapidly, helping over 100 people from around the world to improve their spoken and written English and access key healthcare services.

“Being in the classroom I got to meet students at Queen’s from different disciplines, along with newcomers to Belfast from countries such as Eritrea, Sudan, Yemen, Syria, Somalia, Kurdistan and Ethiopia,” said Natasha.

“We were able to turn this corner of Queen’s into a warm and inviting interfaith and multicultural space that supported integration of newcomers, while celebrating all of our differences.”

Presenting Natasha with her award, Queen’s Graduates' Association President Feargus McCauley, said the accolade of Student of the Year was in “recognition of the dedicated support provided to those who need it.”

“Driven by what she identified as a clear social need, Natasha has proved herself to be a true role model for her fellow students,” said Feargus.

“Her hard work, compassion and empathy have not only provided a vital intervention for those who access services provided by LASI, but have also inspired her fellow students to volunteer.”

The outgoing SU President Katie Ní Chléire also commended Natasha on her achievement.

“The Student’s Union believe strongly that everyone at Queen’s should have a voice. Natasha’s work with LASI is a vital contribution to this vision – helping newcomers to find their voice and become part of a community that welcomes people from all kinds of backgrounds and cultures,” she said.

“Natasha’s contribution sets a wonderful example to Queen’s students in uncertain times. As they navigate a world emerging from a pandemic, with unrest overseas and financial struggles at home, students like Natasha show them the importance of facing difficult times together, with hard work and compassion.”

The Student of the Year awards are the annual showcase of the best of the University’s students.  To find out more please visit the Graduate, Student and Alumni Volunteer of the Year awards webpage.

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