“For the longest time, I didn’t know I was an advocate, but I always spoke up for people.”

Jessica Carrera

As I start writing this, I can’t help but wonder if I even need to introduce this person. If there’s someone who really has a familiar face on campus, it’s IGNITE’s student advocate, Jessica Carrera.

The student advocates (SAs) have many responsibilities, including but not limited to bridging the gap between students and faculties and making sure student voices are heard. At the end of the day, everything falls under one main priority: advocate on behalf of Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber students.

A big chunk of their job happens behind the scenes, so we shadowed Carrera for a day to get an inside scoop on what being an SA is really like.

It’s Monday, June 3, and we’re at the Humber Lakeshore campus. One of the main responsibilities of a student advocate is to attend various events, and today, Carrera is attending Humber’s Pride Flag Raising Opening Ceremony.

As we walk to Humber’s Welcome Centre, Carrera is a bit nervous because she’s about to give a speech. She says that feeling nervous usually means something good is about to happen. In her speech, the message she wants to pass across is that love can come from anywhere and anyone.

“No matter what you like, what you do, how you dress or how you look, you have to be proud of who you are,” Carrera said.

Sitting beside six other speakers, Carrera stands up and walks to the lectern to start her speech. She talks about love, experiences, challenges and the importance of being an ally, ending with a powerful message: “We all belong here.”

As the event wraps up, it’s time to head back to the office.

Picture of IGNITE student advocate Jessica Carrera giving a speech at Humber’s Pride Flag Raising Ceremony.
Picture by Fernando Bossoes.

Carrera says that every day as a student advocate is different. She’s always checking her emails to answer questions or plan meetings and events. A big part of her job is communication – I know this is very vague, so let me break it down.

Carrera explains that she’s constantly talking with different departments at Humber and UofGH to get answers. For example, that week, she spoke with the manager of Humber’s Office of Sustainability to get more info on the Friendlier containers. Carrera’s always connecting with Humber staff to see how IGNITE can support students better. She emphasizes the importance of knowing who the right person is. Since students often come to her with concerns, she needs to have the right info to help them. Regular check-ins with her manager, team and the other SA help strengthen these connections.

“It’s all about building those relationships. A lot of the time, I talk and keep up to date of what’s going on in the Humber community and what events are going on,” Carrera said.

Besides meetings and building strong team connections, Carrera also attends many events. She says that attending the Pride Flag Raising Opening Ceremony or equity events she attended the week prior is all about interacting with students. Being on campus and talking to students is not only part of the job but also a way to provide hands-on support.

Picture of IGNITE student advocate Jessica Carrera helping two students.
Picture by IGNITE.

Each student advocate has specific priorities they focus on. Carrera spends most of her time on work integrated learning (WIL) and food insecurity, but she’s always ready to advocate for other areas such as international students, housing, student representation and mental health.

Work integrated learning and food insecurity resonate deeply with Carrera because of her own experiences. She says the reason she came back to school after 10 years was because of the treatment in the workplace. At the restaurant where she used to work, many international students were employed, and she noticed they were often taken advantage of. Seeing people getting unpaid opportunities like co-ops, she strongly believes that everyone should get paid for their work.

Hospitality has been in Carrera’s blood for the past 13 years, so food insecurity is a clause close to her heart. She believes knowing about food is crucial, but it’s even more important to be resourceful without being wasteful.

“I started off with food banks. I can only imagine what other people are going through so that’s why I push and try to find resources to help a lot of people,” Carrera said.

Everyone, including herself, faces hard times. But it’s important to stay optimistic. She says today may turn out to be a great day, the best ever or just another regular day, but you’ll never know unless you get out of bed and give it a shot.

Reflecting on her Pride Flag Raising Opening Ceremony speech, Carrera highlights the importance of being yourself. She believes that embracing who you are is key to how much you can achieve in life. Carrera says that once she started to understand and love herself, she was able to accomplish many things. That’s the message she wants students to take.

“People need to understand that being you is what’s going to make you move forward in life,” Carrera said.

Picture of Jessica Carrera and her two kids.
Picture by Jessica Carrera.

Now that you’ve learned more about what student advocates do, you might want to have Carrera’s contact information handy for any support you might need regarding your student life. You can reach out to Carrera at [email protected] and the other SA, Naisha Suthaharan, at [email protected].

During her speech at the Pride Flag Raising Opening Ceremony, Carrera made sure to mention that applications for the IGNITE Pride Scholarship are open until July 3! If you’re a member of the 2SLGBTQ+ community, don’t miss out – apply today!

Don’t forget to follow us on our socials @shareignite to stay updated on what Carrera and Suthaharan are up to!

Feature image courtesy of Fernando Bossoes.

Would you like to learn more about IGNITE’s other SA? Check out the story of IGNITE’s new student advocate, Naisha Suthaharan!

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