“Amazing, unique and hyper. Every day you come in and see that everyone is so happy to be here. It is such a gorgeous environment.” 

Melany Palacios-Naranjo

IGNITE’s student advocates for Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber are your dedicated allies, committed to championing your needs and aspirations. They serve as the vital link between you and your academic institution, ensuring that your voice is heard loud and clear.

At the heart of their mission is a steadfast commitment to enhancing your post-secondary journey. As your trusted representatives, they diligently gather your feedback, attentively listening to your concerns and tirelessly advocating for impactful changes. Their unwavering dedication ensures that every aspect of your educational experience is optimized to its fullest potential.

Melany Palacios-Naranjo, one of our student advocates who has worn many hats with IGNITE for the past five years, will now be embarking on an exciting journey. After a truly successful run at IGNITE, Palacios-Naranjo is bidding farewell and embarking on an exciting new chapter of her career. We had a chance to sit down with her and ask about her journey as a student advocate.

Meet Melany

Portrait picture of Melany Palacios-Naranjo

Palacios-Naranjo is a recent graduate from the Justice Studies program at the UofGH. Throughout the academic year, you might have crossed paths with our dedicated advocates at numerous events. Palacios-Naranjo stands out as a shining example of commitment and advocacy for student rights.

During her time as a student, Palacios-Naranjo actively engaged in various school clubs, including ALPHA PHI SIGMA and the UofGH Pre-Law Society. Moreover, she served as a valued member of the IGNITE Board of Directors for the 2021-2022 term, where her leadership skills flourished.

Palacios-Naranjo’s journey with IGNITE fueled her passion for advocating for mental health resources and awareness. Over five years of dedicated involvement, she tirelessly worked to amplify the voices of her peers and champion initiatives that prioritize student well-being. With her diverse experiences and unwavering dedication, Palacios-Naranjo embodies the spirit of positive change within our community. Her story is a testament to the profound impact that student advocacy can have on shaping a supportive and inclusive campus environment.

What inspired you to become a student advocate in the first place?

“When I was a brand ambassador in my first year, the student advocate at the time was the most bubbly person. Witnessing how she interacted with everyone and her dedication to making a positive impact on the world brought me back to the position when it opened up.”

Reflecting on your time with the organization, what’s one memorable moment that stands out to you?

“As cliché as it may sound, it was the “Need or Greed” campaign that truly resonated with me. It was my first project since starting, and it quickly became my passion project. I conducted thorough research and made it my top priority. Witnessing it come to life and seeing everyone actively engaged in it for the day was truly rewarding.”

What’s the most surprising thing you learned during your tenure as a student advocate?

“The flexibility I experienced was remarkable! I was in my fourth year when I took on the role of student advocate, alongside a full course load. Additionally, I had another part-time job at that time, so finding the right balance with other aspects of my life was initially challenging. However, as time went on, I found it increasingly easier to manage. I honed valuable time-management skills along the way, and I can confidently say that Google Calendar became my best friend.”

Can you share a funny or lighthearted anecdote from your time working with fellow advocates?

“In our office, there’s such a wonderful mix of personalities that every day is filled with laughs. But one moment that stands out for me is when I walked in with rollers in my hair while we were getting ready for Hype Hall. It was a hilarious sight! Just being in that environment and sharing those goofy moments made it extra special.”

What will you miss about being part of the advocacy team?

“OMG the people! I love everybody in the field. The students, the staff, people in the office. The environment and everybody in it.”

How has being a student advocate impacted your personal development?

“Growing up, I’ve always been surrounded by a vibrant community. However, stepping into a space where I advocate for students in need creates an entirely different atmosphere. A significant part of this shift stemmed from my experience working in a factory where most of my peers were international students. The “Need or Greed” campaign, as my first project, holds immense meaning for me. It has allowed me to develop a deeper sense of compassion and gain a clear understanding of the struggles these students face. I fully intend to carry these insights with me as I progress in my career.”

Looking back, what’s one piece of advice you wish you had received when you first started as a student advocate?

“Get ready to wake up early, because you never know – sometimes, we’d have to be up and ready by 6:30 in the morning. As a girly girl during our events like Real Talks or Hype Hall, a quick makeup look would take 30 to 40 minutes.”

If you could sum up your experience as a student advocate in three words, what would they be and why?

“Amazing, unique and hyper. Every day you come in and see that everyone is so happy to be here. It is such a gorgeous environment.”

What’s one advice you’d like to leave with your fellow advocates and supporters as you embark on this new chapter?

“Be open to talk to everybody. Do not be afraid to put yourself out there.”

We wish Palacios-Naranjo all the very best for all her future endeavours!

Feature Image via IGNITE.

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