This semester, I am in the lovely Washington, District of Columbia. While many of my fellow junior friends have jumped the pond/headed south to countries abroad, I am, if you will, studying domestic. And loving it.
The Holy Cross D.C. semester program is wonderfully unorthodox. So unorthodox, in fact, that I find myself responding to these questions pretty regularly:
“So you’re taking a semester off?”
“So you’re a student at a school in D.C.?”
“So you’re a grad student?”
No, no, and thank you! But, no. I do understand the confusion, of course. Rarely do juniors in college have the opportunity to conduct independent research with a thesis advisor, or to have a full time internship in one of the most politically relevant cities in the world.
What’s more, I am lucky enough to be interning at one of the most prevalent LGBT advocacy organizations in the United States: The Human Rights Campaign. As a member of the community, and as someone who has witnessed the struggle of a number of people so fearful to come out in their families and communities, it’s a real privilege to work in a place where people are doing incredible work for equality.
It is also very special to be a Holy Cross student at HRC. Many of my fellow interns come from schools where all housing and bathrooms are gender neutral, where sex positive programming is prevalent and integral to culture, where LGBTQ groups and PRIDE are some of the most popular student organizations, and Women’s Centers and LGBT spaces are an expectation.
Of course, I don’t. And yet, my experience on campus in the context of my identities as a woman, a feminist, and LGBT student at Holy Cross has still been very positive. In fact, these identities have been enhanced, not dulled, during my time at Holy Cross. I am supported by the Holy Cross community to be my authentic self, while I am also challenged to offer my opinions and, sometimes, criticisms of a community that I love and do my best to contribute to. Part of being a good community member at Holy Cross and in all places means articulating how we progress, even when it might be unpopular.
And truly, the arc of Holy Cross’ history has always bent towards more justice, more diversity, and more inclusion. Holy Cross was founded as the first college in Massachusetts to serve Catholic students. The first valedictorian was mixed-race. In ’68, Father Brooks recruited 20 African American men to attend Holy Cross. In ’72, women were welcomed to the college.
Now, Holy Cross has thriving Multicultural Student Organizations, a PRIDE group, and a Women’s Forum. The Vagina Monologues happen annually. We had our first drag show last year. Most beautifully, these things do not detract from the Jesuit tradition of the college. Going forth and setting the world on fire must come from a recognition of the diversity of the world in which we live. Being a person for and with others must come from a deep sense of love, and a willingness to meet people where they are rather than where you might want them to be.
Next semester, I am returning to Holy Cross. Although I didn’t anticipate coming back quite so soon, I am excited that what I am learning in DC will transfer well to what I hope to do on campus. This year’s commencement speaker, Bryan Stevenson, encouraged the Class of 2015 to “beat the drum for justice.” Having witnessed such impressive justice drum beating in D.C., I hope to make a bit of a ruckus on campus with what time I have left.