Glamour Magazine recognized Sarah Clements (COL ’18) as one of 10 recipients of its annual College Women of the Year award yesterday.
This year marks the third year in four that a Georgetown student has won the College Women of the Year award. Last year, Daniela Fernandez (COL ’16) won for her ocean sustainability work. In 2014, Kendall Ciesemier (COL ’15) won the award because of her years of service working with those affected by AIDS in Africa.
The award, which is in its 60th year, honors young women across the country for their involvement in their campuses and communities.
This year’s recipients work in fields ranging from law to global development to filmmaking. Former recipients of the award include author and designer Martha Stewart, former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller (D-Texas) and best-selling author Curtis Sittenfeld.
Clements, whose mother survived the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, started the Jr. Newtown Action Alliance to advance gun reform legislation. Clements also connected with Ronnie Mosley, a Chicago resident who lost a friend to gun violence, to establish the #Fight4AFuture Network, an activist group focused on gun violence prevention and criminal justice reform.
Recipients will be honored at an awards ceremony in New York City on April 25.
What was your first reaction to receiving the award?
I was definitely extremely humbled and honored when I heard that I received the award. I know a couple of people from Georgetown, actually this is the third year in a row that a Georgetown student has received this award in particular, and knowing who the past couple of winners were from Georgetown, I was just really humbled to be in their presence. I didn’t actually learn until today who the other winners this year were, and just reading about them all day today, I’m so excited to be in their presence.
What was the process like to be honored among all of these empowering young women?
I was actually nominated by two people, and I went through a few interviews with Glamour, and sent them some information about the work that I’ve done. Glamour did an amazing job. They all have an issue area or something in particular in their lives that they’re deeply passionate about and speak out about it and continue to stand up and fight. Even though we do that in all different ways, whether it’s filmmaking or law or activism, I think that’s really cool to see.
How did you get into activism? What were your first forays into that world like?
All through high school, I was involved in the ally community through our Gay-Straight Alliance. That was my first step into being an activist. The reason I got involved in gun violence prevention was because in 2012 my mom survived the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and pretty immediately after that I began moving forward through activism. You see this in other instances in other communities that have experienced horrible tragedies and violence, that everybody sort of has their own way of moving forward, and mine just happened to be through political activism.
Can you explain why gun reform is such an important topic for you today?
My community and my family have been personally impacted by the gun violence in our country. Just statistically, the amount of guns that we have out in circulation in the United States, as well as the amount of people who are killed every year by civilian gun violence, as well as police-perpetrated gun violence, is astronomically higher than any other country in the world. The fact that thousands of people are killed by guns every year in our communities is something that should terrify and enrage everybody. The rest of the world sees the gun violence that happens in our country, sees the numbers, sees the mass shootings and pities us for not being able to make the change.
What advice would you give to those who are just getting into activism and activist causes?
Regardless of what issue are you want to work in, right now is very obviously an intense and important time to get involved. If you weren’t ignited by this election or by what’s going on in Washington, D.C., there’s so many organizations and causes that need your help in your communities. Right now is also an overwhelming time to get involved. Pace yourself, and be patient.
Who would you say is your biggest inspiration and why?
I definitely have a ton of people I could list for my biggest inspiration, but I would say my mom because she also is deeply, deeply involved in political activism work at this point.
She survived the shooting, and literally the next week picked herself back up as soon as the new building opened, went back into the classroom and was there for her students. She didn’t miss a single day of work teaching her students for the rest of that school year and for the entire next school year. Since then, she is still teaching in the classroom and at the same time has become a huge community organizer and leader in the gun violence prevention space. Her resilience and drive inspires me every single day.