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2012 Top 24: Rachel Malek, The Outreach Worker



A two-year battle with homelessness and addiction as a teenager left Rachel Malek certain of one thing.

"Basically, I couldn't work at Starbucks, so I realized organizing (marginalized) youth and working with other (at-risk) people was where my passion was."

The 20-year-old, who studies criminology and sociology full time at Simon Fraser University, now spends every weekend working at Downtown Eastside women's shelters.

"There's just something about it that energizes you and keeps you going," she said. "It's just where I belong, it's where I fit in."

Between classes, work and co-organizing SlutWalk Vancouver, Malek also created workshops where women gather together to talk about redefining what a "girly" image means in contemporary society.

Women who attend 'WTF is Girly' seminars spend about an hour talking about stereotypical images that are harmful to females as well as certain elements they wouldn't mind hanging on to.

"Girls are able to come out of the workshop and go, 'You know what? I'm really proud of liking pink' and other ones who come out and go, 'I'm really proud of being a tomboy.'"

Malek, who is the youngest member in the history of the University Women's Club of Vancouver, plans to transform the workshops into a non-profit organization once she graduates in 2014.

We asked you to nominate the region's best and brightest students for our two-week feature Top 24 Under 24. Now we're profiling young people already making big strides in the world through volunteering, entrepreneurial spirit and technological innovation