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Stéphanie Lacroix (right) with friends including Becca Klaassen (second from right) at the DSA 101 event she helped pioneer. Photo: Courtesy of Becca Klaassen.

U of O alumna one of 157 casualties in Ethiopian Airlines crash

Stéphanie Lacroix came from the Ontario town of Timmins, studied at the University of Ottawa and was valedictorian for her class, and went on to do development work in Africa. Tragically, she was one of the 157 who perished in the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash outside Addis Ababa last weekend.

But what does this very short — too short — biography tell us of Lacroix? What of the impact she had on U of O’s campus and academic life? How can it tell of the kind and passionate friend who is now missing from the lives of many?

Perhaps it’s easier just to look at Friel Residence, a place that one of Lacroix’s friends says bears the marks of her time as a community advisor, and later part of the housing team.

“Even talking with some of our old coordinators on campus, they kind of talk about things that Stéphanie does as an example to new students,” says Jamie Lafrance, a friend, roommate, and former co-community advisor with Lacroix.

Not only supporting the students in her care, but leading them to effect positive change, she helped pioneer the Living Learning Communities in that residence, which groups students together for community engagement projects.

One can look also at the International Development and Globalization Student Association (DSA), which was in its infancy when Lacroix joined the executive team and helped plan its first 101 week in September 2014.

Andrew Park got to have Lacroix as both a CA and a mentor on the DSA team. “She always made time for everyone,” Park says, “even if it made things more challenging for her.”

“She also made everyone on the floor friendship bracelets at the end of the year, and I still wear mine to this day. I know others from the floor still do too, and this is five years ago now. She was really good about the little things that way,” Park says.

After her time at the U of O, Lacroix took her work ethic and values to Africa, where she worked for the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) as the in-country volunteer support coordinator for Malawi. Not unlike her work for the university, she was cultivating relationships and indeed taking care of young people, this time as they embarked on development internships.

Hannah Berge was one of these volunteers under Lacroix’s care, just last summer. “She was always there for you,” Berge says of Lacroix. During a WUSC-hosted memorial service, Berge said that “each person in the room had a personal story about Steph making things better, or helping them work through a problem.”

From WUSC, Lacroix moved on to the United Nations Association of Canada, where she only worked for a few months.

“I think the job she had now was a huge achievement and something she was really proud of,” said Becca Klaassen, a friend, classmate, and co-DSA executive of Lacroix’s.

“Development is a program where you do have to think critically,” Klaassen said. “(There can be) tough parts of it to figure out, to really work in that field. She did all that, but she was still so optimistic about the world, and about people, and about human nature, and I think that’s really what drove her to be in that field.”

Through the effort and kindness that Lacroix put in to every relationship, it’s clear that she has given a gift to the school, to her chosen field of development and to every person she mentored or befriended. And so, her legacy continues; as long as her optimism and compassion echo forward in those who love her, Stéphanie’s story isn’t finished.