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College hosts student panel on political involvement

| Wednesday, September 19, 2018

College students and political activism have historically been linked. On Tuesday, Saint Mary’s seniors Zoie Clay and Ashley Hovorka spoke about their participation in the nationwide tradition of student political involvement through a panel discussion.

The students participated in the College’s internship program in Washington D.C., and while there marched in two demonstrations. Clay said she participated in a third after she returned home.

The students first participated in the Women’s March in January 2018. Both said that the March helped them to dispel stereotypes and empower them.

“It was an incredible experience and it felt that we were taking part in a historic movement of our time,” Hovorka said. “It was an empowering place to be.”

She was impressed by the variety of people who marched and got involved with the cause.

“There were a lot of young women there, families there as well, older people, couples especially and that surprised me because I made the assumption that there would just be a lot of young women there,” Hovorka said.

Hovorka also discussed how the march was an extension of her work on campus in the Belles Against Violence Office (BAVO).

“Coming from Saint Mary’s, I was involved in BAVO so it was nice to be able to put my actions from here on campus and take that out and be politically active as well,” Hovorka said.

The second march that both students attended was the March for Our Lives in March 2018. This march was personal for Clay, she said.

“I have been an advocate for gun control since I was 8 years old, which was the age I lost my mother to a senseless act of gun violence,” Clay said.

Clay said the March extended political change and also affected her emotionally.

“This march showed me, especially how important it was to talk about these details and that it is okay to talk about them,” Clay said. “The March for Our Lives — it was energy that was very comforting and respectful. Just an indescribable feeling of support on solidarity, from feeling alone on my position on gun control because I grew up in the conservative South.”

Clay encouraged more people to find and participate in this process of solidarity and said that the marches become existential.

“At that moment, I realized the power of a movement and a march, not just the power of that movement in particular, but the power of a movement in general, and what it can be to the people who are a part of it and that the power to bring people together when they feel alone and separated and the power of being able to find support in a movement,” Clay said.

Clay participated in the local Families Belong Together March in southern Mississippi as well. While she said it was smaller than those she attended in D.C., she still found similarities.

“The energy was actually very close to the energy that we felt in D.C, these people still cared, they were still there for a reason,” Clay said. “It did affect them even if it meant putting themselves out on the line, people did throw things at us and yelled not nice things, but they also honked to show their support.”

The experience with this March also encouraged Clay to participate in marches in the South Bend community, she said.

“This March was a reminder that we can still be an activist and a student activist in a small town like South Bend, your voice does still matter,” Clay said. “Even if you feel defeated, because you are in a small town or your campus doesn’t reflect how you feel that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t speak out against it.”

Both of the girls were inspired and moved by their experiences. They recognized the benefits of a Saint Mary’s education and encouraged their peers to participate in movements across the nation.

“Being a part of something that is greater, this is a movement, and it is really important for people in our community to take part and realize the importance of being a part of this,” Hovorka said. “It is really empowering. Saint Mary’s really pushes you to do something greater with the education that you receive here. It can’t just apply to the classroom you have to take it out into our lives as well, and part of that is activism and standing up for something.”

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