Staff Profiles: Meet Our Interns Anastasia and Mel!

Anastasia – Outreach Coordinator (Internship)

Bio written by Mel Pagliaro

Anastasia’s academic background, volunteer experience, and personal interests in women’s issues, body image, self-esteem, chronic illness, relationships, and sexuality, and her desire to be involved with a feminist, inclusive, organization that spoke to her own pro-choice values makes her an excellent fit as the current Outreach Coordinator Intern.

Anastasia recently graduated with High Honours as a Double Major in a B. A. Honours in Psychology and Women and Gender Studies from Carleton University. She was acknowledged with the prestigious Elinor Burwell Scholarship for her exceptional coursework in Psychology of Aging and the Psychology of Women. Her thesis examined the seldom explored topic of disordered eating in adolescent males, which opened up many people’s eyes to the negative effects of stereotypes on males. Anastasia has volunteered as a board member for the Anxiety Disorders Association of Ontario, has worked as a research assistant for the Royal Ottawa Hospital on the Research in Eating and Adolescent Lifestyles (R.E.A.L.) project, has been employed by the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario as a research assistant and thesis student, and an was an instructor of competitive dance at the Gwen Cadman School of Dance for three years. In the future, Anastasia plans to pursue a Master’s Degree (and eventually a Ph.D), in Social Work, Counselling, or Women’s Studies. Her goal is to use this knowledge and experience to open her own consulting business which would provide feminist counselling services.

Anastasia, named after the Romanov princess once shrouded in mystery, identifies herself as an “über-nerd”, with a love of reading, particularly of self-help books, and writing. She aspires to one day retreat to a country home to write a self-help book for adolescent females focusing on aspects of healthy self-esteem, body-esteem and positive relationships. Amongst her other hobbies and interests are interior design, fashion, hanging out with her dogs and spending time with her very supportive partner, Nicholas. Fitness, particularly weightlifting, is a passion of hers, because she “really want[s] to get jacked!” and she enjoys the focus on expansion of muscle mass, rather than an emphasis on weight reduction; the latter of which she notes that “women are often expected to do”.

At Planned Parenthood Ottawa, Anastasia is responsible for working with our Community Education Coordinator on broadening access to sexual health information beyond schools and into community-based organizations. She is organizing contact information regarding organizations of interest, is creating contraceptive kits, and is establishing workshops in preparation for upcoming outreach activities. In future, Anastasia will be speaking publically about sexual health. With only a week’s worth of experience at Planned Parenthood Ottawa, she anticipates enjoying the workshops and subsequent one-on-one question and answer sessions with audience members. Anastasia values the art of active listening and believes that her new role as educator will allow for new learning opportunities both personally and academically. She appreciates that she is part of an organization which presents options based on client preferences; one that empowers women and aids them in making informed choices. Anastasia’s well-rounded nature will go a long way in promoting access to sexual health education outside of schools and supporting people in their sexual and reproductive health choices.

Melissa (Mel) – Program Developer (Internship)

Bio written by Anastasia Szakowski

Melissa, who prefers using just Mel since it’s gender-neutral, became involved with Planned Parenthood Ottawa because it meshed well with her personal beliefs. Mel is pro-choice and enjoys playing with multiple gender and/or sexual identities in both real and virtual worlds. Mel was attracted to Planned Parenthood Ottawa because it is non-discriminatory and supports alternative lifestyles. Mel has both an undergraduate and Masters degree in Psychology from Carleton University, with the latter including a specialization in forensic psychology research. Mel’s Bachelor of Arts thesis examined the effect of source credentials and profiling method on people’s perceptions of criminal profile accuracy and usefulness, whereas her Masters dissertation looked at the victimization experiences of survivors of psychopaths, many of whom experienced a range of violence.

Mel is enjoying her internship role as Program Developer, where she researches and writes on topics relevant to initiatives under consideration by Planned Parenthood Ottawa such as an options companion service and best practises in outreach to diverse communities. Mel will be writing and adapting new program materials. Mel sees her position as providing her with an excellent opportunity for learning. Mel loves working behind the scenes in order to help build new ideas from the ground up. Mel is an avid volunteer and has been involved with the Canadian Breast Cancer Network as a Research and Policy Assistant, the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre in Administrative and Project Support, the Victim Crisis Unit of the Ottawa Police Service as a Summer Student, and the Youth Services Bureau/Housing Help as a Youth Consultant with the Rainbow Youth, Central Youth, and Host Homes advisory committees.

Her hobbies include writing, reading, and creating visual art depicting the fantastic and the unusual. Mel describes herself as an eccentric “gamergrrl” who enjoys collecting coins, feline paraphernalia, and figurines of mythological creatures. Although she identifies predominantly as a pansexualfemme fatale, she shifts identities when the mood strikes. In the future, Mel’s goal is to obtain an additional Masters Degree or a PhD in order to become a sex therapist, a career of interest because she wants to spread the message that sex with informed consent is a healthy and normal part of life and help empower people to be proud of their own identities. Mel is a fascinating, free-spirited individual and is a welcome addition to Planned Parenthood Ottawa.