USSU President Jack Saddleback.
USSU President Jack Saddleback.

A platform for positive change

As far back as he can remember, Jack Saddleback has always had an itch to create positive change.

It is a desire that has been with him since his childhood, and one he credits to the influence of his mother.

"She was a social worker when I was growing up, so she would also encourage us to go and volunteer with the Calgary Friendship Centre. I truly feel that those days of my siblings and volunteering laid many of the values I hold dear today," said Saddleback, president of the University of Saskatchewan Students' Union (USSU).

In 2011, that desire to help led Saddleback to get involved with the USSU Pride Centre. This decision turned out to be only the first step toward five more years working with the USSU, during which time Saddleback would climb the ranks from volunteer to Pride Centre co-ordinator to USSU president in 2015.

As the first USSU president who is trans-gender and two-spirit—a contemporary term that acknowledges the historical acceptance of LGBTQ people in First Nations cultures—Saddleback is proud that the role gave him a greater opportunity to be both a role model for those who are all-too-often looked down on and as a source of guidance for those uninformed in areas of acceptance.

"People in these positions, leadership positions, can be themselves. You do not have to sacrifice your being as an individual when looking to create change for the greater good. The experiences I have gone through as a Cree two-spirit transgender gay man are no less and no more than the person I stand beside," Saddleback said.

"We all deserve a voice on this campus, in this province, in this country and in this world."

Saddleback, alongside the rest of the USSU executive and co-ordinators, has had a year of defining successes, counting lobbying for a campus-wide sexual assault policy, bringing Indigenous content to all degree programs and creating a commission on female leadership among their more prominent wins.

But looking forward, he said he hopes his time as president is defined not by specific changes in policy or governance but by an overall push toward equality.

"I hope the legacy I leave with the USSU is the awareness that we must fight for all students, especially those who are marginalized. If we are not willing to create change in the safe space that is the post-secondary institution, how can we expect to make change in our greater society?"

Though he struggles to pinpoint a single point in his half a decade with the USSU that he is most appreciative of, Saddleback said that hindsight has left him grateful simply for having had the opportunity to create some of that positive change he has been itching for since childhood.

"The year has been absolutely humbling, from hearing stories from students to advocating on an administrative level to rallying folks on a national level. The U of S has so much going for it and it's been an honour to serve our undergraduate student population over these past few—and short—months."

Saddleback said his plans for next year are not yet final, but while he weighs his options he hopes to finish his sociology degree in the near future.

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