“I hope to be the backbone to what students want to see because I do understand that we’re all in this together.”

Naisha Suthaharan.

After two years of having our very own Melany Palacios-Naranjo as a student advocate, she is wrapping up her years with IGNITE as she graduates from the justice studies program at the University of Guelph-Humber. Transitioning from her role as a member of the board of directors (BOD), brand ambassador and student advocate during her five-year journey with IGNITE, Palacios-Naranjo is ready to move on to new responsibilities.

As her time comes to an end, it’s time for fresh air for the team that bridges the gap between students and the institution. We are excited to welcome Naisha Suthaharan as IGNITE’s new student advocate!

Stepping into the role, Suthaharan is currently in her fourth year of the justice studies program at UofGH. She emphasizes that a big part of her life outside of school is about assisting people who are in need and empowering their passions. Suthaharan says her personal beliefs closely align with her academic pursuits. She mentions that the justice studies program is not just focused on crime and criminal justice, but it’s also a big platform for advocacy.

Despite the advocacy background from her program and her dedication to supporting people, Suthaharan felt a gap in her understanding of the resources and processes to make her dreams of advocating for students become a reality. This is what prompted her to join the IGNITE’s board in 2023.

Reflecting on her time in this role, she acknowledges holding such an important position transformed her as a person. Today, a year after first stepping into the BOD role, Suthaharan sees a big improvement in her decision-making skills. But, she points out the opportunity to listen and connect with students as the highlight of her experience.

“I definitely feel different after coming out of the BoD position. It gave me a sense of reality and understanding of if you want to make things happen, there’s a way,” Suthaharan said.

A picture of the 2023-24 IGNITE Board of Directors. Eight people are in the picture.
Photo by IGNITE

Suthaharan anticipates her new role with a mixture of nerves and excitement. She even mentioned she’s been staying up late at night thinking about the things she’ll do as a student advocate. The fourth-year student says she wants to be the backbone of the campus community. She believes everyone is in the same boat, including herself, but she wants to be the flashlight of this boat. Her goal is to be a leader who’s part of the community rather than a leader who does not share the experiences of their followers.

“I want to be that person where even on the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, they [students] can come to me,” Suthaharan said.

In her advocacy efforts and priorities, Suthaharan emphasizes that she is big on equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI). She believes everyone deserves to feel included and perceive they have a place at school.

She also highlights the importance of creating a safe space for students. Suthaharan understands the importance of mental health, saying this is a big topic and she won’t stop talking about it.

“No one deserves to be in the dark and feel like they’re not safe at UofGH or at Humber College. They [students] should always feel safe wherever they go,” Suthaharan said. 

As our conversation was drawing to an end, I thanked Suthaharan for her time and was ready to ask if she had a specific message for Humber and UofGH students. However, Suthaharan surprised me by saying “I have a question for you.” The interviewer doesn’t usually get to answer questions during an interview so that honestly caught me off guard.

Suthaharan proceeded by asking me, “What would you like to see happen? Is there anything I can do to help you? I’m new in this world [the student advocate position] but I want to help.”

After answering the question, Suthaharan said she would keep my thoughts in mind. She then shared a quote that resonates with her as she steps into this new position: “It takes a village to raise a child.” Suthaharan emphasized the importance of collaboration to the success of the student community. She highlights it takes so much support and help and that students are never alone.

The lefty, who curiously uses her right hand when playing sports, hopes to be there to support students.

“The question ‘Are you okay?’ does not get asked enough. I want people to know that we are all on the same boat and in order to survive we need each other, we need to build one another up,” Suthaharan said.

A portrait picture of Naisha Suthaharan.
Photo by IGNITE

If you wish to connect with Suthaharan, you can reach out to her on the IGNITE website.

And don’t forget, if you see Suthaharan around on campus, do not hesitate to say hi and express your concerns!

Feature image courtesy of IGNITE.

Are you wondering what students advocate do? Check out five key initiatives championed by Jessica and Melany!

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