Extraordinary Student of the Month is a monthly series in The Varsity’s Arts & Culture section that highlights the exceptional roles University of Toronto students play in making their community better.

Ksenia Seliverstova is a third-year Woodsworth College student majoring in Human Biology: Health and Disease and minoring in Russian Literature and Immunology, who prides herself on community service. “I’m not an exceptional student, but I’m a good student who tries to help out,” she said.

Silverstova began volunteering in high school at her local church by running food drives and helping out in homeless shelters. When she arrived at UTSG, she joined Woodsworth’s Community Outreach in hopes of continuing her work. Seliverstova ended up chairing the Community Outreach and received specialized training on how to approach someone who is homeless: sit with them, engage in conversation, or offer spare change.

In the summer between her first and second year, Seliverstova’s passion for helping others grew and her friends began to become involved as well. Alongside Seliverstova, Ahash Jeevakanthan, Amy Ly, Janaat Uthayakumaran, and Conrad Chow created Helping Hands of UofT, an organization that raises funds and awareness for various disabilities.

The group was created with the intention of giving funds raised to multiple causes. “We can do a bunch of things, like marathons or helping out hospitals or having more accessible needs for buildings,” said Seliverstova.

Last year, Seliverstova and the rest of Helping Hands hosted a bake sale to raise money and awareness for Reach for the Rainbow, a not-for-profit organization devoted to helping children with disabilities.

That same semester, Helping Hands collected donations for the Canadian Cancer Society. Seliverstova also pledged to cut off 14 inches of her hair for donation. “A lot of people donated because they wanted to see me with short hair, but I didn’t want people to associate [it] with that, so I kept telling them it’s for a good cause,” she told The Varsity.

As a result of all their efforts, Helping Hands quickly surpassed their goal of $500, donating around $1,300 to the Canadian Cancer Society. When asked why she decided to chop off her hair, Seliverstova said: “What is it to me if I can help one girl?… Take my hair, make a wig, be happy. I’m just happy with the amount of money we raised for cancer awareness.”

Seliverstova advises fellow students to: “do the little things to make other people’s days better,” like holding open a door for someone. “It’ll make you feel better about yourself… Once you build up enough confidence, you can do a lot more, you can volunteer and you’ll feel even better.”

If you know an extraordinary student on campus and wish to nominate them, email [email protected]; provide their name, email, and why they deserve to be featured.