Coming into my freshman year, one thing that was always heavily emphasized was the importance of a sense of community. Every upperclassman that I had a conversation with seemed to speak to this point in some way — some saying that they had been lucky in finding their communities right away, others saying that though it had taken longer, they managed to find a group that represented them and that contributed to making Stanford feel like a second home.
Back home in San Francisco, a tight-knit community was never something that was available to me. Everyone at my high school tended to exist on their own wavelength, occasionally coming together in clubs to work on a project but then dispersing soon after into smaller groups that did not feel the need to unify further. Because of this, it was difficult for me to see the importance of finding a community to rely on. The word community itself was arbitrary to me — any group of people working together in any capacity could be a community. That didn’t necessarily have to mean anything. To me there was no single community that would embrace all aspects of my identity, which discouraged me even further. I felt that in many ways, I existed outside of the limited community spaces that were already created, and I feared that that would simply carry on during my time at Stanford.
When I was chosen to be an intern at the Women’s Community Center (WCC) last year, I honestly did not know what to expect. I was excited to be doing feminist work, as that was something that I had always been interested in. I had no idea that what everyone had said about communities would become true for me. Not only was I finally able to regularly interact with people with similar values, but each time I left the space I felt more educated than before. The WCC provided me with a network of people that wanted nothing more than for me to succeed. Through the WCC, I have been provided with more opportunities than I ever thought I would have. It is a space where you can be confident that you can be your authentic self and receive no judgment. With the endless amount of collaborations between the many groups on campus, there is no limit to how much you can learn. I feel that being so involved with the WCC has changed the way that I educate myself both inside and outside of my formal education at Stanford. It has provided me with skills that I will undoubtedly carry with me for the rest of my life.
Becoming involved with the WCC changed the way that I viewed communities. It took the term from something groundless and arbitrary to something much more complex and meaningful. The WCC has certainly become a second home for me, and I feel that I have grown immensely since I began working here, both personally and intellectually. The community centers on campus are crucial places for so many students at Stanford. They provide us with places to learn, to grow, to create. They are spaces where we can speak our truths and know that we will be heard. They are spaces where we can question and challenge thoughts and push ourselves outside of the boundaries of our knowledge. As a student impacted by the work of the WCC, I stand with all of Stanford’s community centers in asking for these spaces to be prioritized as essential campus resources.
— Rawley Clark ’20
Correction: The author of this piece was originally listed as Claire Robinson ’19; it has been corrected to the actual author, Rawley Clark ’20.
Contact the author at communitycentercoalition ‘at’ gmail.com.