A look at an Iris alumna: A student-athlete’s experience at the Women’s Center

August 18, 2014

Story by: Emily Lloyd, Class of 2014

Emily Lloyd graduationI have been a U.Va. alumna for all of three months now, and to say that I miss the University and everyone I met there is a gigantic understatement. However, life must go on, and I am excited to say that I am about to start a journey that would have never been possible without U.Va. and without the Women’s Center.

Starting this September, I am moving to New Hampshire to work as an AmeriCorps legal advocate at a domestic violence shelter in Nashua. It is a job that sounds to me like my dream job some days, yet absolutely terrifying others. I have no idea what to expect when I get up there, but I like that. I am tired of a schedule consumed with classes, studying, writing papers and swimming. I am ready to finally put my knowledge to use in a way I believe will further not only the Women’s Center’s mission of creating change but also my own personal mission to raise awareness about sexual and domestic violence. Looking back on my work with the Women’s Center, and with Iris in particular, I am now realizing how vast an impact this organization had on my collegiate life as well as my life after graduation.

As a collegiate athlete, I had a very different experience at the Women’s Center than most interns and employees. Coming into college, my job seemed simple: pass classes and focus on swimming. However, I soon realized that a life revolving around athletics was not all it was made out to be. Swimming is a stressful sport, both physically and emotionally, and I desperately needed an outlet. So, I buried myself in my schoolwork and found comfort in my major, Women Gender and Sexuality. As I furthered my passion for advocacy through my studies, I discovered opportunities, in addition to athletics, that U.Va. has to offer.

Working at the Women’s Center under the Iris staff as well as participating in the Young Women Leaders Program was one of the best decisions I ever made and truly helped me discover myself in college. The Center helped me realize that there is so much more to life than swimming, and I needed that. I still loved swimming, and I loved incorporating athletics into my work with Iris. I was able to plan Iris’ “Bad A** Women in Sports” event last fall, as well as write articles about my team and other U.Va. athletes, and I even convinced some of my little sisters in YWLP to come to one of my swim meets! I will always be thankful to my coworkers and supervisors for allowing me to connect my two worlds.

When comparing the swimming world to my work at the Women’s Center, I realized how small of a role swimming would play in my future and how I truly wanted to dedicate my future to advocacy. Any collegiate sport, especially at a division 1 level, is intense. To some people, swimming is a job. But when I compare the nerves I had before a big race, it will be nothing compared to those I will have upon meeting my first sexual violence survivor in the upcoming months.

Working at the Center gave me the opportunity to meet new people with stories so different from my own, and it really opened my eyes to what’s truly important in life and how incredibly lucky I have been to have a support system of family, friends, teammates and coaches that a lot of people lack. The Women’s Center and Iris played a huge role in why I chose to work for AmeriCorps in sexual and domestic violence advocacy. It will always be a defining piece to my college years and I am excited to use my experience there in the future!

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