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Featured Changemaker: SERENA RUSK on building a foundation for community engagement

Serena Rusk was a 2017 YGL summer intern, alongside her co-intern Teal, who interviewed her for this featured changemaker profile. Serena is a rising sophomore at Wesleyan University, where she is a Science in Society and Biology double major, and completing a certificate in Civic Engagement.

What are you spending your time doing these days?

I’m really enjoying my summer home after a super rewarding first year in college! I’ve been spending a lot of time with my family, working, and even got the chance to take an incredible trip to Japan. My YGL internship has focused on planning and facilitating workshops and retreats with the YGLers, which is one my favorite parts of this job.  I’ve also been spending some time reimagining our application process, taking the first steps towards planning a Youth Voice Rising event, and helping the YGLers to refine their service learning model.

What are you excited about in the upcoming months and year?

I am really looking forward to my return to school, building on my past relationships and forming new ones. I’m taking a few classes that I’m very excited for, including Bioethics and Social Justice, and Applied Data Analysis. At school, I’m a fellow with the Allbritton Center for Public Life, so I’m looking forward to diving into planning and implementing my fellowship project this upcoming year.  

What drew you to YGL? What drew you back as an intern?

I was drawn to YGL as soon as I attended their Girls That Shine event. I got to hear presentations from every YGLer and talk to them individually about the program, and I was struck by their maturity, poise, and overall coolness. I decided that I wanted to join the program and hang out with them all the time.  The people were my reason for coming, and they’re my reason for coming back as well. The type of community we build in YGL is unique to my high school experience, and life in general, so I was incredibly excited to come back in a different capacity as an intern. This past year has been a lot about myself; I’ve been focusing mostly on self growth, school and my classes, and building relationships.  I really wanted to get back to this type of work because, for me, it’s also an important form of self care.

How do you see yourself as a changemaker?

So much of the work of a changemaker has to happen within oneself before being extended out into one’s community. My years in YGL and my personal passions have guided me on this path of self learning and discovery, but I’m still looking for ways to bring that change outside of me. I would say I’m certainly not living the life of a changemaker, but I dip into the role every once and awhile 🙂

Who inspires you?

I am inspired by anyone who is able to “make it work” in whatever sort of context. I gain inspiration when someone pushes through obstacles or challenges to make something happen. Sometimes, I struggle with confronting adversity head on, so I am drawn to people who model that in a healthy way.

 

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