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Tiana Sharifi receives the inaugural KPU Alumni Excellence Award

Tiana Sharifi receives the inaugural KPU Alumni Excellence Award

Wed, Jun 22, 2022
Tiana Sharifi, winner of 2022 KPU Alumni Excellence Award.

A Kwantlen Polytechnic University graduate whose work aims to prevent sexual exploitation and human trafficking is being recognized for her impact in B.C. communities and beyond.

Tiana Sharifi is the 2022 recipient of the inaugural KPU Alumni Excellence Award, which will be presented June 22 during convocation ceremonies at KPU’s Surrey campus.

“I’m a little bit speechless and incredibly honoured. I’m also grateful to KPU for recognizing this work,” said Sharifi, an educator and consultant based in Vancouver who provides services throughout Canada.

“I really enjoyed my time at KPU. The professors I had in the counselling program were top-notch, and the lessons I learned in those classes really followed me throughout life.”

Having graduated from KPU in 2013 with a bachelor of psychology, Sharifi is now recognized as an expert in her field. She is founder of Sexual Exploitation Education (SEE), which works to prevent sexual exploitation and human trafficking through awareness, advocacy, education and consultation.

What sparked her interest and passion in the field was one of her first jobs following university—presenting to students as a workshop facilitator.

“This was an issue that was so prevalent in every community I went to and every school I went to, but it was one that was not being talked about.”

Seeing a need to fill that gap, she started her own agency. Through her work, Sharifi has provided prevention education to thousands of elementary and secondary students, parents and teachers, while training hundreds of social service providers, including law enforcement.

She places importance on Indigenous education and has been an ally to agencies such as the Indigenous Perspective Society to educate those who work directly with Indigenous youth, parents and adults.

“I’ve been involved with helping many Indigenous organizations because as we know, unfortunately, they’re overrepresented when it comes to sexual exploitation and trafficking.”

Sharifi is also co-executive director for the Breakfree Collective, an international non-profit organization that raises awareness and educates Canadians about the growing threat of sex trafficking in Canada, to protect children, women and other vulnerable minority groups. She has served as co-author and consultant for groundbreaking B.C. research on the digital presence of human trafficking, and recently released the SEE-App, a digital application focused on sexual exploitation prevention.

Sharifi encourages graduates to follow their passions and pursue their strengths.

“Don’t let anybody define your limits, capacity or success. There are so many paths toward one goal, and there might even be different paths that others haven’t taken yet. Nothing is impossible.”

The Alumni Excellence Award recognizes accomplishments of KPU alumni, such as major awards, national or international honours, major championships and appointments to high office.

KPU Alumni Association executive director Nancy Armitage said KPU is thrilled to award Sharifi with the inaugural KPU Alumni Excellence Award.

“Her work of building awareness, advocacy and education is having a real impact in our communities. Sharifi embodies that of a tireless runner, which is the meaning of the word Kwantlen.”