Melissa Kargiannakis


Meet Melissa

Melissa Kargiannakis is who you were 5 or 10 years ago: full of energy, a little idealistic, and fully confident that she will impact the world. Melissa’s motto—overreach: do things beyond your current capacity—drives her toward excellence. Notably, Melissa was one of three Canadians and only 60 recipients world wide to win the inaugural Queen’s Young Leaders Award, which she received from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in Buckingham Palace in June 2015.

Upon completing her Master’s of Health Information Science from Western University in 2015, Melissa founded The ZeroZero Foundation to help remedy the epidemic of student debt she and her peers face through new financial mechanisms such as Social Impact Bonds (SIBs). Working at the Ministry of Economic Development, Employment, and Infrastructure in the Office for Social Enterprise, helped inspire the use of SIBs.

Melissa is also the Founder & Managing Director of Heuristext Inc.; which aims to make the internet easier to understand regardless of individual reading abilities. Fittingly, Heuristext comes from the word heuristics, which means to enable someone to learn or discover something new themselves.

When Melissa was a fellow in Studio Y at the MaRS Discover District in Toronto in 2014, she started Sci-FY: Science and Reading for Youth–a mentorship program between post-secondary and elementary students in her hometown of Sault Ste. Marie. The mentors provide examples of post-secondary education possibilities and help elementary students develop the science, literacy, and numeracy skills to get there.

Some people say it takes a village to raise a child, but it has taken an entire province to raise Melissa. She has a history of radical leadership and takes risks to build a better future. Melissa is a creative thinker and problem solver. She transcends expectations without fear, where the horizon is her starting point.  Most of all she is a connector, and interested in connecting with you.



’12 Honours BHSc. – Western University.     ’15 MHIS – Western University.

Professional Exp.

Melissa is currently pursuing entrepreneurial ventures and is available for other potential opportunities.


Details about Melissa’s projects in health care, literacy, education & more are below.

Microsoft Word - Formatted Manifesto Draft Two.docx

Melissa’s Manifesto

(Click image to view larger)

The word “Dreams” has meaning in its shape. It starts fairly large because I always had big dreams. Then there was a time of doubt, loss of naïveté, and tempered expectations as others scoffed and tried to impart their realism to me. Now, as evidenced by the size of the last few letters in the word “Dreams”, my ambitions are bigger than ever before and their realization even more palpable.

Melissa's Musings


Hyper-busy & Quiet in 23 Years

Originally posted on the Cult of Busy site, reposted here given it is my original work:

Busy was my trademark of the first 22 years of my life. Think of any activity imaginable in elementary, high school, and university and I did it. Academic achievement coupled with clubs, causes, sports, music/theatre, and student government—quite literally everything. And I loved it. There was probably only one wavering moment towards the end of those 22 years where I realized I was kind of doing a lot, though I still can’t quite bring myself to say too much. My long-standing high level of involvement shaped me for the better. I learned a great deal about others, myself, and how the two interact.

The spring I turned 22 I also graduated from my undergrad. I lost a lot that spring all to gain one uniquely sized piece of paper with special fonts, pantones, signatures, and stamps. I lost my status as a student. I lost my titles, my positions, and my prized activities. Everything I did was in effect, done. Done? It was over? That’s it? I felt almost unsatisfied, dare I say disgruntled. But this was my everything. I lived for what I did. I was who my titles said I was. I was Melissa, President of my faculty. I was Melissa, Residence Don. I was Melissa, who was known for being busy.

People would excuse my ultimately selfish, paradoxically antisocial, and really quite rude behaviour on account of “that’s just Melissa, she’s just busy.” Some people would remark with reverence and praise while others would reprimand with justified anger and disappointment. I probably let down each of the very special people I call friends to this day – many, many times in the limited window of time we had together.

I am not sure if or when I burnt out but all I knew was I needed to stop. So I did. That same spring I turned 22 and graduated I stopped everything: volunteering, leading, interacting, socializing even, and studying intensely (despite the fact that I enrolled in a Master’s program for that fall—oops). The people who praised my over-involvement were often amazed at “how I did it all,” but for me stopping was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Harder than any exam, any course, leadership position, or any problem I tried to solve.

I have been on each end of the spectrum. I kept a schedule from 8am-3am for months at a time and I have sat at home in utter silence for weeks on end without a responsibility in the world—or so it seemed. Given the broad range of my experience with busy, I have a hypothesis and despite that I may be supporting it here with anecdotal personal evidence (an academic faux pas), indulge me for just a moment.

I busied myself into blind oblivion for just shy of 10 years all for the sake of not stopping. It was as if in the back of my mind I knew that stopping would allow me to think. And who knows where thinking can lead! As it was with the blurry race that was my life I somehow managed to think a great deal. Some of that thinking lead to quite painful realizations or acknowledgements that were far better left unknown in my opinion—especially given my incapacity to deal with them at the time.

One of those things has to do with my father. December 2004 was the last time I ever saw or heard from my father again. Strange how you can be in the same home as someone for 14 years and then they disappear to go on living an entirely different life, as if they never once created your life. I spent a solid six years in denial that anything that occurred had even affected me. Besides, absence is better than abuse I would justify as I pushed the pain into the deepest vault of my mind. Simultaneously I took on every task, project, cause, and endeavor imaginable so as not to think about the possibility that maybe it did affect me. At the end of those six years, a mere 20, I finally acknowledged that perhaps it had affected me yet I still maintained quite the schedule and even spiraled into a more hectic lifestyle as the years went on. It wasn’t until I stopped, that spring I turned 22, that I actually reflected and maybe tried to start dealing with all the feelings. All I can say so far is in that year long journey I found myself to be deeply affected by what happened but not limited—which has since become my mantra of the ordeal.

Time makes us vulnerable. We have no choice but to yield to it. It tells us when we eat, sleep, even defecate. It dictates when we grow taller, breasts, or rounder. Time is acutely attuned to our individual expiry dates unbeknownst to us. There is a vulnerability in time. There is an opportunity for your mind to wander into its depths; caverns usually far off the beaten trail of “getting things done” as haphazardly as possible.

Quiet—it is a very simple word. It seems almost nice, friendly, or inviting even. But I think quiet is a word that can cause people to shudder more than some of the most offensive, intrusive, and aggressive words in our language.

Our society is bred to go. Bred to move. We are told all our lives we are human beings but we are defined by our doings and shoved into doing daily. Quiet is stopping. Quiet is reflecting. Quiet is vulnerability. I think we are tremendously afraid of openness and vulnerability even to ourselves. I believe that we as a society are afraid of what our minds will reveal in that stillness. I know I was and largely still am.

Furthermore, when we are busy we neglect our relationships. You can try to defend this saying that you are “there when it matters” or that you “show up for the important things.” But, is a relationship merely built upon “the important things?” What are these alleged important things? Is it not important to go for walks and strolls or even just lie in stillness with those you hold dear to let your minds wander independently together?

In the first 22 years of my life I had a personal policy to I ensure I attended at least one “major” event per friend each year. Looking back, that was a pathetic and impersonal policy. I reflect fondly on the times that I did stop with my friends, if only for a moment. I wish there were more memories to hold while I have the capacity to remember them. From hyper busy to evaporated responsibility, I have learned that “work-life balance” is a lifelong negotiation, not a day-to-day tightrope walk. There should always be a time to dive deep into your dreams without looking back or sideways. But we as a society need to stop being so afraid of the moments in which we rest, choose to stop, and be quiet. When you open yourself up to the vulnerability of the new things you might learn when your mind is free to think deeply, it helps make you more complete.

Barbie Never Bothered Me


By: Melissa Kargiannakis

Response to: Huffington Post article

Lately I have been terribly bothered by the countless articles (hereherehere, and this is just the beginning—the Business Insider even reported on it for crying out loud!) accusing Barbie of ruining our images of women and distorting little girls’ minds due to their intimate friendships with such precious pieces of plastic. My fleeting youth and childhood are not so far gone and as an emerging young adult I reflect fondly on my days of old passing the hours by with my best non-breathing ladies.

I loved Barbie. Loved her hair that I obviously shared my hair products to improve the knotty mess that was generally glued to her head; her colourfully decorated face with more make-up than I think my mother even owned; and her clothes with the tiny buttons, zippers, or Velcro pieces that my still developing hands were of just the right size and dexterity to maneuver. I absolutely idolized her. But I never thought I would grow up to look like Barbie. And I didn’t want to.

lil barbie

Me as a child enshrined in Barbie paraphernalia.

Barbie made me feel girly and beautiful. With Barbie I was always the girl that boys had crushes on at school and I was always the young woman who went on fancy dates with a suited-up Ken. Barbie kept the fantasy alive that has been far from my reality. Please, stop trying to change Barbie into something less than all that she is. Barbie is supposed to be fantastical. Barbie is supposed to be ornately garnished with the most twinkling of make-up. Barbie is supposed to have an unattainable body so that everybody can be her.

Have you ever seen children attempt to put on makeup? It is much more of an art experiment than an exercise in enhancing one’s natural beauty. The colours and less-than-subtle nature of it all are certainly reminiscent of Barbie’s brightly adorned face, but that’s what’s fun about it all!

Those “average” size Barbies actually make me feel terrible because I’m still bigger than those statistically sized measurements purport. I don’t look like that. But dang, do I look good. And it is the original Barbie that makes me feel good. The three-dimensional renderings or even the plastic mock-ups of alleged “average” still seem a little off. I mean how many “average” people do you know with a 4-inch thigh gap? I barely know anyone even with the tiniest of thigh gaps. These newly proposed Barbies are also based on finite numbers. Any physician would tell you that a healthy average is a range of weights per height. Furthermore, focusing on averages perpetuates the problem of individual body acceptance issues rather than alleviating the issue. I dispute Nickolay Lamm’s message: “average is beautiful”. No, average isn’t beautiful—everyone is beautiful. Because everyone is more than their outsides—everyone has a story that includes their entire person, inside and out.

There’s also a sexist double standard at play in the criticism of Barbie. Where are the grown men chiding Lego for their body image issues? Or HotWheels for giving us unrealistic expectations about roads? I mean seriously, it is as similarly ludicrous. I played with Lego all the time, and no—just like with Barbie with permanently high-heel-shaped feet—I did not aspire to be a cubic person with a removable head when I grew up. But we aren’t talking about these issues at all. We’re focusing on one brand of toy not even one genre of fictionally designed dolls in general.

To those out there who have alleged that Barbie devastated their self-esteem, body image, and expectations, perhaps we should look at other underlying causes as to why at ages 5-10 you were worried about your body image. Perhaps the social constructs that exude such pressure even at such a young age should be given more attention rather than scapegoating some plastic Mattel toy.

Even the more realistic Barbies that emerged in my youth where they gained belly buttons and partially defined abs destroyed my childhood best friend. Now I was looking at her as near human. Now I was seeing features I saw on women in magazines. To me it was as if Barbie was trying to be like models, not that models or real women were trying to be like Barbie. I didn’t like that. It ruined her imaginative, creative existence in fantasyland. It made her more human. Making her more human in turn made more human to Barbie comparisons.

So please. Leave Barbie alone. Let the fantasy live on because Barbie never bothered me. But boy these articles tearing her apart do.

Barbie isn’t ruining our body image—societal constructs and Photoshop are.


I have a lot of Barbies & they will never be thrown out.




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