Student Superheroes: Advocates for strong identity & mental health

Queen's students nominate friends who dedicate time to making others feel heard

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You don’t need to watch every Avengers movie to know that most superheroes keep their identities secret. Though they help save people from everything from bus crashes to super villains to giant aliens, they usually do so while disguised in spandex suits complete with a mask. Thankful citizens can throw them a parade, but it’s hard to thank someone you’ve never seen. 

This month, The Journal wants to pull the mask off some of Queen’s own superheroes. In our first article of the series, we’re featuring three students who have helped amplify the voices of people who need support or guidance.

Their friends have nominated them for all the time they’ve given back to the Queen’s and Kingston community. Instead of throwing a parade, they wanted to share all their heroic deeds and tell them just how important they really are.  

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“Rachel Agnew is a crucial part of the Indigenous community here on Queen's campus. She goes above and beyond to make sure our collective voice as Indigenous students is heard and valued by the institution. When I first started going to the Four Directions Centre here on campus to try to reclaim my Indigenous identity, Rachel immediately took me under her wing and has helped guide me into the Indigenous woman that I am today.

Rachel is on the exec for the Queen's Native Student Association, the editor-in-chief of the Queen's Journal of Indigenous Studies, and the deputy commissioner on the council of Indigenous initiatives with the Social Issues Commission under the Alma Mater Society. Rachel was also just awarded the 2020 Reflection Award for outstanding community-building and student leadership within Indigenous Relations at Queen's. She is so passionate about being involved with the Queen’s community and all of her involvement greatly improves Indigenous students’ experiences here.

She is constantly working on ways to decolonize this institution so future generations can feel safer, more understood and heard. I cannot think of anyone kinder, more selfless, well-spoken and humble than Rachel. She does so much for all of us and never asks for anything in return. I and many of the other Indigenous students here at Queen’s are so lucky to have such a strong woman to look up to and to be able to call our friend.”

—Hannah Tosello

“The best superheroes are arguably the ones that hide in plain sight, and Jess Baldachin is one of those superheroes.

I first met Jess in my third year at Queen’s, when I was looking for housemates. Since then, I’ve gained a housemate, a friend, and superhero. Jess’s involvement with mental health advocacy is inspiring, and the dedication and work she puts towards it is incomparable. Jess first became involved in mental health advocacy in high school, when she started a wellness committee at her high school after seeing how much students needed extra peer support.

When she got to Queen’s, she became more involved in mental health advocacy through Jack.org, where she was the internal events chair—spreading awareness on campus through different initiatives and activities—which often meant giving speeches to different crowds of people. Her speeches around campus focus on bringing awareness to compassion fatigue and caregiver support, both of which Jess has personal experience with. Jess’s strength is unparalleled when she is giving speeches, opening up about her own mental health struggles and experiences, in order to educate and inspire others to partake in mental health advocacy. By opening herself up to being vulnerable in her speeches, I have personally seen the difference that Jess makes in the hearts of everyone she speaks to.

Superheroes are extraordinary in the sense that they use their power for the greater good. Jess’s superpower is mental health advocacy through sharing her own story, and the dedication and drive she has into making campus and the greater community a safe space for everyone. A superhero’s identity may not always be known, but I’m lucky enough to know one.”

—Maya Shapira

“Describing Megan Chiovitti in words is so hard because she is so much more than one could describe. She is the
hardest-working person I’ve ever met, but still offers to help you even if she knows she has one million things on her plate. No matter her workload, she is always willing to take something else on, whether that be helping a peer or engaging within her community.

She understands the importance of education, and with her being in Concurrent Education, I know she will make the biggest difference in students’ lives, especially through her concentration on at-risk youth through Kingston’s Youth Diversion and her advocacy for Indigenous communities.

Meg is a student superhero because she grounds other people. She is the first person I call when I’m stressed and the first one to always have a plan of action for both herself and others. She was previously involved with Vogue Charity Fashion Show for her work with Youth Diversion, and her mentee said Meg is the reason she is going to college—if that doesn’t speak to the type of person Meg is, I don’t know what can. Meg is unapologetically herself. She contributes to the culture surrounding the conversation around identity expression and strong mental help by being there for others and not shying away from the conversation.

I wanted to take this opportunity to say, Meg, thank you. You are the epitome of what it means to be a student superhero and forever will be my rock.”

—Emily Velovic

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