Saint Mary’s College sophomore Cat Cleary co-facilitated the “Women’s Issues in the Urban Environment” conference run out of the Indianapolis Peace Institute in Indianapolis, Ind. over Winter Break
The program is designed to be a service-learning experience that incorporates direct service, visits to non-profit organizations and guest speakers.
The week-long program explored issues affecting women’s lives in the city of Indianapolis — including domestic violence, homelessness, HIV and STIs, and immigration.
Sixteen other students attended the conference from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Saint Rose College in Albany, NY. Cleary was the only Saint Mary’s attendee.
Due to her prior experience, Cleary helped run the conference.
“I had taken a similar alternative break trip through the Indianapolis Peace Institute last Spring Break and had done a service trip over Thanksgiving,” Cleary said. “I was familiar with the organization.”
Cleary said every time she leaves these conferences she feels more passionate and energized about women’s issues. Her first trip had a major impact on choosing to be a Women’s Studies major, which she is designing herself at the College.
“Now that I have taken it a second time, I am starting to focus more on my career and where my major and interests can take me,” Cleary said.
Cleary said it is also nice she gets to return to Saint Mary’s, an all-female environment and she comes back with ideas to enhance the College.
“Some of my many ideas are to start a Peace Garden on campus, develop a women’s empowerment group and have a tampon and pad drive for the inmates at the Indiana Women’s Prison,” Cleary said.
Also off campus, she is working to challenge gender roles in the primary grades by encouraging girls to participate in more masculine activities.
“Currently, I am helping put on a ‘Girl Power Workshop’ at Coquillard Primary Center — a Title I school — to empower third and fourth grade girls to think about and get interested in science,” Cleary said.
She says everywhere she goes she feels she is a representative of Saint Mary’s but at the conference especially it was interesting to receive insight into other colleges.
“These trips have made me increasingly more aware of how fortunate and blessed I am to live the life that I do,” Cleary said. “They reignite my passion for social justice and cause me to think critically about the world I live in.”