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.

Alyy Patel is a third-year Woodsworth College student who is pursuing a major in Sociology and Sexual Diversity studies and a minor in Women and Gender Studies. She’s also the Co-President of Woodsworth Inclusive (WiNC) and has previously served as Associate Vice-President of Internal Services for the UTSU. She is passionate about activism, equity work, and social justice.

Patel has been devoted to LGBTQ+ issues since high school and her developing expertise in this field has helped her reach new heights at U of T. During high school, Patel ran her school’s Gay Straight Alliance, where she successfully organized a campaign for gender-neutral washrooms. The work she did before university earned her the Harmony Movement Canada Award, in recognition of her efforts to implement equitable changes and enhance the diversity in Canada.

For Patel, LGBTQ+ issues are of personal importance. “As a queer woman of colour, I’ve personally felt unsafe in some spaces and recognize that these spaces don’t always make room for folks like myself,” she told The Varsity. “The reason I do activism is because I want to give voice to these folks that are very marginalized, that… are not often represented.”

In addition to WiNC and the UTSU, Patel has also been a member of Woodsworth College Student Association, and one of the Orientation Coordinator’s for Orientation Week. In her positions, she has continuously striven to make the university  experience safer for all students on campus, especially those within the LGBTQ+ community.

Some of Patel’s achievements include implementing gender-neutral washrooms in the Woodsworth Residence Building and temporary gender-neutral washrooms during Orientation Week. She’s also worked with LGBTQ+ youth on addressing mental health issues, with an emphasis on understanding that mental health issues affect everyone differently. She has presented her findings to professors, teachers, and medical professionals during the Rainbow Health Ontario’s National LGBTQ Health Conference earlier this year.

Patel’s next goal is to continue to advance in leadership positions on campus so she can help more people. “I’ve implemented many equity changes at Woodsworth, now I want to move to U of T as a whole,” she said. “Go beyond advocacy and actually ensure accessibility needs are met. [Consent] at U of T is a big issue and needs to be properly addressed. I want these changes to be made on a broader scale… and from there I can hope to move on to Toronto as a whole. I strongly believe U of T has a lot of potential.”

When asked what advice she would give to fellow students, Patel said that the key is to take baby steps, work your way up to bigger causes, and do not feel discouraged if things don’t work out immediately. “I think social justice is something we need everyone to advocate for. If you believe in it, go for it, strive for it, make a positive change,” she explained.

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.