Lakehead students are in good hands with champions like Lahama Naeem and Farhan Yousaf on their side.
"We want to give students the opportunity to learn, grow, and create happy memories," Lahama says.
She's the president of the Lakehead University Student Union (LUSU). Farhan, LUSU's executive director, agrees.
It's about investing in students and breaking down barriers to the university experience. It's especially crucial coming out of the pandemic with inflation on the rise. We don't want finances to hold students back.
In honour of its 40th anniversary last year, LUSU has made a record-breaking gift of $150,000 to create new student bursaries and an additional gift of $150,000 to go to areas of greatest student need. Their kindness and generosity will offer a lifeline to young people struggling to get by—it's all part of the organization's commitment to students.
"LUSU provides essential services, like our health plan and the uPass for public transit, that create a more equitable playing field for students," Lahama says.
One of their most recent achievements is the expansion and renovation of LUSU's Food Resource Centre.
"Food insecurity is increasing," Farhan says, "but there's a stigma attached to using a food bank, so we created an inviting space—like you're walking into your kitchen to grab something to eat and then having lunch in your living room."
Farhan and Lahama both have a stellar history of helping their fellow students. Lahama, who graduated with an Honours Bachelor of Science in June 2022, has served on Lakehead's senate, established university clubs, organized fundraisers, and, as LUSU president, she represents the voice of students to all levels of government, the University, and community groups. She's also had an impact with the henna art business she started in high school, which she used to connect with the Thunder Bay community.
"A lot of people weren't familiar with Muslim culture, and it was a great way to break down stereotypes," she says.
Then, when the pandemic hit, Lahama began selling cupcakes online through her business Bakeology Thunder Bay and donating the proceeds to local charities.
"I love baking—I watch a lot of Cake Boss."
Farhan juggled a heavy workload at LUSU with his academic studies before graduating with a Bachelor of Engineering. He served four years as LUSU's operations and finance VP and is now capably steering the organization as its executive director. Throughout his time at Lakehead, Farhan has excelled at improving international students' lives and fostering multiculturalism through events like LUSU's Culture Days. He's also a founding member of the Racialized Young Professionals Network.
Now, LUSU is stepping up with bursaries for both Orillia and Thunder Bay campus students based on financial need. They've also ensured that international, Indigenous, disabled, and trans students are eligible for bursaries. Combined with their second gift, LUSU is throwing the doors to a university education wide open.
"Our tagline says a lot," Farhan notes. "LUSU is 'For students, by students.' We create a space for all students to reach their true potential through mentorships, financial support, spaces, and clubs."