This year’s Miss Fraser Valley will be using her crown as inspiration to work with youth and create a sense of belonging and culture for aboriginal youngsters.
Mission’s Brittany O’Rourke was named Miss Fraser Valley at the Miss, Mrs, and Miss Teen BC Pageant on June 30. She was one of 50 contestants in the competition.
“I was shocked, and so thrilled,” said O’Rourke after her win.
O’Rourke explained the experience was “empowering” and it motivated her to continue with her cause and passion to work with youth.
Twenty-three-year-old O’Rourke was born and raised in Mission. She graduated from Mission Secondary School in 2009, and after overcoming some personal challenges, she enrolled herself in the child and youth care program at Douglas College.
While attending college, she explored her First Nations background and found the motivation she needed to live a better life.
O’Rourke’s mother was part of the Skatin nation near Pemberton, but was adopted when she was two years old by a family in Agassiz, and grew up without any connections to the First Nations.
O’Rourke, whose father was British, wasn’t raised in the aboriginal culture either, but as a child, she knew she was different because she had darker skin. Other kids would ask about her background, but O’Rourke couldn’t provide any answers.
“I felt a part of me was missing. I was disconnected with my culture.”
She began researching her background. A college project on community centres led her to the Mission Friendship Centre on First Avenue where she met staff, volunteers and visitors who encouraged her on her path.
“It was amazing to work with people who live the red road,” said O’Rourke. “It inspired me to live a holistic life, a better life.”
The red road is a way of life that focuses on the four quadrants of the medicine wheel that addresses a person’s spiritual, mental, physical and emotional well-being.
O’Rourke, who works as the aboriginal youth liaison for the Mission school district, began speaking with her mother about her findings and sharing her experiences with children struggling with their identity.
“Once I started learning about (culture), it changed my life.”
O’Rourke described her job and her newly acquired title, as a “dream come true.”
She has already received invitations to attend fundraisers and speak at events and looks forward to becoming involved in the community.