Spotlight on York U’s RED Zone

Posted by York & U on June 28, 2018

Features | Goings-On around York | Guest Post | New to YU | York Community

For this post, the #YUBlog has partnered with York University’s RED Zone and Britney Robin Chenier, Media & Communications Student Ambassador, to develop a special-edition guide to York U’s RED Zone! 

This summer I’ve been lucky enough to work very closely with York University’s RED Zone, a group of students who, contrary to common opinion, are not a club. Rather, RED Zone is a part of Student Community and Leadership Development, a department at York U completely dedicated to enriching the student experience.

RED Zone is a safe, welcoming space where upper-year students dispense tips, advice, directions and more. We’ve all seen them hard at work, since they’re located right by the entrance of Vari Hall from Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm.

Fun fact: The “RED” in RED Zone stands for Ready, Engage, Discover!

Photo of six RED Zone Student Ambassadors jumping and smiling
Come by and greet our Student Ambassadors from Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm in Vari Hall.

I sat down with this year’s RED Zone team leader, Althea Parala, so that she could share exactly what makes RED Zone special. Althea is always smiling and she has the air of someone who is comfortable being in charge without ever coming across as anything other than unfailingly friendly and willing to listen. Like the rest of her team, she is incredibly passionate about the York U community.

A Quick Word with RED Zone’s Student Ambassador Althea Parala:

BC: Tell me about you.

AP: “I’m going into my fifth year of a Psychology BA. I got pretty involved on campus starting straight away in my first year and I just ended my third year on the Calumet College Council, which has been amazing. I’m also a part of ASCEND, which is a great leadership retreat for students interested in learning how to become global and local leaders. I also participated in LeaderShape last year with a bunch of other York U students and that was really fun… and of course I’m a part of RED Zone!”

BC: What is RED Zone, in your own words?

AP: “York U, like many universities, is a huge place and so RED Zone is a student-powered front-facing help desk located in Vari Hall. We’re here for all York U community members, including students, faculty and staff. We answer any general questions and try to help students navigate different resources, faculties and offices. We help people target exactly where they need to go to get their questions answered. We’re student-facing and student-centered; and since we’re all students, we’ve all been in the same boat. We’re a more personal version of a help desk.”

Image of the inside of York U's Vari Hall that houses RED Zone.
There will always be two Student Ambassadors ready to help during RED Zone’s hours of operation.

BC: Why is RED Zone so important to the York U experience?

AP: “Aside from giving directions and general Q&A’s, we run important programming throughout the year, including #YORK101, a summer transition program/pre-orientation. The program answers really basic questions like:

  • “How do I get a YU card?;”
  • “What’s the best place to eat on campus?;”
  • “What are the expectations that professors have?;”
  • “What’s a TA?;” and more.

We provide essential information about basic topics that people might not even think of when they’re coming from high school or coming back to school after 10 years away. We try to unpack the anxieties of this new chapter of their lives and help with the transition of coming to a new school or even a new country. A lot of our students aren’t from Toronto, so they need support to adjust.”

BC: What does being a part of RED Zone bring to your life?

AP: “My favourite part of RED Zone is facilitating the #YORK101 groups and telling my personal York U story; things like how I got to York U, why I got involved and what all of that has added to my life. We always joke that it’s my superpower because I really love it. I love when people resonate with my story and say they have the same fears I had. You know, some people come from high school wanting to make a change. University is a perfect opportunity to start fresh and start making your life into what you want, and that’s awesome because a lot of the time people don’t realise the potential they have. That shift that happens during the time I have with people at the #YORK101 sessions is just magical.

Oh! – Wait, no, no, the best part is when people approach me after #YORK101. Sometimes students will come up to me at the kiosk afterwards, just to let me know how their first year went and how things unfolded for them after orientation. It’s amazing. It gives me chills.“

Picture of two RED Zone Student Ambassadors high-fiving over another student's head.
York U’s RED Zone is always ready and willing to help by email (, phone ((416) 736-2100 ext. 55481) or in person (Vari Hall).

BC: Your main advice to new students?

AP: “Make friends with upper-year students who will mentor you throughout the year!“

BC: Anything else you want to say about RED Zone?

AP: “One of our strengths as a team is that we’re students too – we’ve experienced the frustrations and joys of university life too. We get it. You’re not talking to a faculty member, you’re talking to someone who is in your shoes. When people who are experiencing the same things help each other out it creates a really empowering community.”

Image of five RED Zone volunteers.
Help the RED Zone facilitate or organize their events by joining their Volunteer Squad!

Want more RED Zone?

Getting in touch with the RED Zone is easy. If you can’t make it to their kiosk, you can contact them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@yorksredzone) where they are always actively posting informaiton and answering questions. You can also reach them by email ( or by phone 416-736-2100 ext. 55481.

If you want to get involved with RED Zone, they recruit volunteers for events throughout the year, which is a great way to get involved on campus.

If you’re a new student you can also check out the #YORK101 hashtag for all of those must-know Orientation details!

This blog post was written by Britney Robin Chenier, Media & Communications Student Ambassador, and published on the #YUBlog on June 28, 2018.

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