Student Spotlight Feature: Clare Gilroy

“In high school, I volunteered at a local soup kitchen through my youth group.  This experience really opened my mind to homelessness and hunger, and gave me a smooth introduction to some of these issues.  I continued volunteering at a soup kitchen after coming to college.  Last fall, I received an email from my faculty master Al Vos saying that the Rescue Mission was looking for student leaders to help out with the Sleepout event.  Ciaran Slattery, the other RA on the Public Service Learning Community, immediately jumped on the opportunity. The Sleepout is an event that involves students spending the night outside in accordance with national homelessness and hunger awareness week. The event kicks off at 7 pm and runs until 6 am, allowing students to come and go for as long as they please. The goal of the event is to increase awareness and empathy for hunger and homelessness. So far the event has been very Hinman focused, as Ciaran Slattery and I both live in Hinman. I would love to see the event expand outside of Hinman, as I think this something the campus could unite for.  As far as our impact, I truly hope that this has inspired students to find something their passionate about and consider how they could help the issue.  Clearly for me, hunger and homelessness is a major issue, and I hope that through this event students find they also care about working with groups like the Rescue Mission.  However, at the very least, I hope this gets students considering any and all issues that are dear to them, and considering how they could make a difference in those areas.”

Clare Gilroy ’16, Biology Major was in charge of last year’s Homeless Night Out event along with Ciaran Slattery. Clare was recently featured as a student changemaker at the CCE hosted event, Passion to Action. Clare is also involved in the education minor on the steering committee, where she makes decisions about developing the education minor. She is also an RA in Hinman College in Smith Hall.

 “I love that the event increases awareness to an issue that is so significant in Binghamton. When students are on campus, I feel that they find themselves in a bubble, and it’s easy to forget that a few minutes down the road, there are many people suffering from these issues.  The Sleepout brings the issues of hunger and homelessness to the forefront and forces students to explore things outside their comfort zones and increase their empathy. Our first year, we had about a dozen students remaining at 6 am when the event ended. This past year, we had two-dozen students.  It was really rewarding to see that more students were committed to participating for the full 11 hours.  Additionally, I feel so proud when I hear that the event has inspired students to get involved in other organizations. Ciaran and I also received a HOPE award from the Rescue Mission, the group who helps us put on the event.  I was honored that the Rescue Mission gave us the award- they are the people who I am working to increase awareness for, so it was heartwarming that they respect all the work that we do. 
It was also quite humbling to be asked to speak on the Passion to Action panel.  It was really touching to think that people respect the work that I do to advocate for these issues, and the work I do qualifies me to be a “student changemaker.” At the event, the first hour was spent on a panel.  Everyone brought a unique perspective to the event- I felt like I was learning so much from the other panelists as well!  Afterwards, we broke into small groups to have more poignant discussions about different topics.  I felt that these groups made invited students to ask specific questions, ask for advice, and clearly establish a path for themselves.  We also worked on SMART goals, which was a great way to plan to take baby steps to get us (eventually) to the big picture.  The passion to action panel was a great introduction for students who want to get involved, but don’t always know where to get started.

Being on the panel allowed me to reflect back on the path that got me where I am today.  Especially as I come up on my graduation, I can’t help but think about “freshman Clare” who volunteered at a soup kitchen each week. My first few times going, I was very nervous.  However, it’s amazing how many doors have been opened for me ever since I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried something new! Keeping an open mind and exploring things from a different perspective is something I’ve learned from volunteering that I apply to my everyday life! The only way to truly get something out of volunteering is to let your guard down, be humble, and be prepared for anything thrown your way.”

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