Agents of Change raise awareness of racism on campus while hosting programs and activities to amplify the voices of all students of colour at Brescia. While working closely with Brescia's Special Advisor to Principal, Diversity and Inclusion, Lissette Ochoa, three student leaders, Hannah Hodder; Amy Karpenko and Nivedita Varagunan look at addressing important issues affecting marginalized populations in order to create a more inclusive environment.
On July 23, 2020, Agents of Change hosted a Check Your Privilege workshop focused on checking and reflecting our privilege. Participants were given an opportunity to learn about privilege, then proceed to check themselves in terms of racial privilege in their lives. This workshop will be held three times a year to ensure that those who want to attend have an opportunity to do so.
The Agents of Change leads promise that “more is in the works.” They are all excited to learn about how they can help the community alongside Brescia.
Hannah Hodder is a third-year student at Brescia studying in the Criminal Justice program.
Over the past few months and in light of recent events around the world, Hannah has been a strong advocate on police brutality and human rights among the Black community. Hannah notes, “I have been dedicating my time in my community to help better our understandings on systematic racism and organized a peaceful protest to help raise awareness.” Read about her work within the Black community here.
Hannah decided to become one of the leads for Brescia’s Agents of Change because “it focuses on creating safe spaces for students to have conversations about anti-racism initiatives and addresses issues pertaining to marginalized groups.”
This year, Hannah will be given the chance to connect with the Brescia community by engaging them to participate in the Agents of Change’s offerings. These may include activities like education centred around anti-racism and barriers that minority groups may face.
Amy Karpenko is going into her fourth year at Brescia in a double major with Health Sciences, and Nutrition & families.
Amy has accepted the challenge as one of the leads for Brescia’s Agents of Change because she is determined to create a space that is welcoming to all. During her time at Brescia, she has been involved in the programming that takes place in residence. This summer, Amy has worked on listening and thinking critically about her presence in the spaces she resides. She is passionate about this because when she asks her family, peers and community members to do the same, she is “not only talking the talk, but also walking the walk.”
Throughout the summer of 2020, Amy has been lucky to be part of creating a session for Brescia’s student leaders to eradicate racism. It’s Amy’s hope to inspire others to share their passions and affect change: “Change is possible. It takes time to research and an openness to learning from others whose experiences differ from our own.”
Amy hopes the Agents of Change will have the opportunity to work with the Brescia community to create a space that empowers all, not just some. She wants to be able to create a space to have meaningful conversations that highlight instead of erase, that acknowledge intersections, that are honest and hold space.
Nivedita “Nivi” Varagunan
Nivi Varagunan is going into her second year at Brescia in the Foods and Nutrition program.
Having not grown up in a diverse community has driven Nivi’s passion for racial equality and diversity. When Nivi came to Brescia, she made a commitment to herself to build up courage to use her voice and make a positive change to increase diversity in her community. In her first year, Nivi joined Student Council which “helped with my confidence because I was given opportunities to have my voice heard and be in a position where I could make active change.”
Because of the recent events surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement, Nivi realized she needed to help. This is why she was honoured to become one of the leads for Brescia’s Agents of Change. She feels it is so important to create leadership opportunities for diverse individuals as well as create a safe space for diverse individuals.
Nivi was proud of her idea to hold the recent Check Your Privilege workshop because it opened up conversations among students. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing: “The workshop was a bit rocky as there were some offensive or sensitive aspects that were not taken into consideration, but we are not going to let this discourage us from hosting future sessions.” The Agents of Change leads are going to use the feedback and suggestions from attendees to further enhance this learning experience for others in the future.
Nivi shares, “I am excited to have a part in the future of Brescia and work towards an inclusive and diverse environment for everyone!”