NAME: Helena Clark
LOCATION: Pearl River, NY
I am going into my senior year at Hunter College in New York City, having transferred from my local community college, where I am studying Political Science and Human Rights. I have been learning a great deal about various human rights concerns, and how I can help to make impactful change in both our society and on a global-scale. Due to the pandemic, I am currently living with my family in the small town I grew up in and am looking forward to moving into the city this fall! Outside of school, I volunteer to tutor kids in my town who are learning English and I am also studying Spanish. As far as hobbies, I really enjoy reading, especially autobiographies/memoirs, and books regarding politics and human rights issues. My absolute favorite thing to do is travel!
What's your connection to LGBTQ+ justice work?
My connection to LGBTQ+ justice work is a strong one. I grew up in a very conservative town, where homophobic and transphobic rhetoric and attitudes were a norm in my high school and throughout the community. I witnessed first-hand how such beliefs dangerously impact the lives of LGBTQ+ individuals by diminishing their basic freedoms and damaging their mental health. Many of my friends in high school were LGBTQ+, and were never able to be who they were because of the backlash they would receive both in school and in their homes. I strongly believe that justice does not exist if there is not justice for all, and so I started getting involved with LGBTQ+ justice work.
As an ally, I work to educate myself on the realities LGBTQ+ people experience nation-wide, and world-wide, and how the constructs of race, economic class, religion, citizenship status, and other divisions create multiple layers of oppression for many LGBTQ+ individuals. In recent years, it is apparent that anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment is rising across the United States, fueling immense amounts of LGBTQ+ hate crimes that often result in severe physical harm including death, as well as horrific mental, and emotional traumas. This reality cannot be ignored which is why I started actively supporting LGBTQ+ justice work through NEAT.
What is your volunteer role(s) at NEAT? What inspired you to get involved?
At NEAT I do a variety of different volunteer roles, and I love them all! I am currently working on a research project for various Pride events. I am learning a lot about how NGOs and other organizations can work together to advocate and advance LGBTQ+ justice through collaborative actions. I also do phone banking shifts, which has been a very fun experience. I love talking to registered voters in our target states about the importance of the Equality Act, and hearing about their support for LGBTQ+ rights.
In the near future, I will begin training volunteers on how to canvas for the Equality Act at Pride events, and look forward to attending some Pride events as a canvass volunteer myself! When I started researching non-profit organizations in NYC where I might intern, I came across NEAT and immediately loved everything about the organization! I was really inspired by the fact that NEAT is a grassroots organization that focuses on the intersectionality of LGBTQ+ justice. I truly believe that grassroots activism is the most effective way to make nation-wide change and that the intersectionality of LGBTQ+ justice is critical to acknowledge in order to improve the lives of all members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Share a memory from volunteering that sticks out in your mind.
I have so many memories that stick out to me! Many of them come from phone banking because the majority of the voters I talk to always have something funny to say about their Senator(s) or something really supportive to say about the LGBTQ+ community. It has been great connecting with people to help fight for LGBTQ+ justice. Phone banking has introduced me to a network of people who want to see LGBTQ+ individuals live equal, safe and dignified lives.
What would you say to anyone considering volunteering with NEAT?
DO IT!!!! I cannot emphasize enough how much I love being a part of NEAT’s team so far! All of the work that NEAT does is really inspiring, and has taught me so much about how everyday individuals can work together to progress towards a world where everyone can live equally.