We have four new staff members at Love Wins Community Engagement Center. Over the next few weeks, each will introduce themselves here. Last time, we met Leann Rafferty, our Office Manager. Now, we’re pleased to have Clelia (starts with a KL sound, as in clearly, rhymes with Ophelia) Sweeney, our new Operations Associate, tell us about herself:
When I tell people that I grew up in a log cabin in Vermont, their reaction is never neutral. Typically, their eyes get wide and I can see them searching my face for signs of psychological stunting or backwoods serial killer tendencies. But that is where I’m from; rural Vermont, high up in the hinterlands of New England, one of the most liberal and anti-mainstream places in the country. Billboards are outlawed, there’s a 0.41 cow-to-human ratio, and queer organic farmers live beside proud rednecks with inexplicable Confederate flag stickers on their pick-up bumpers. Although I have fond feelings about where I’m from, there was never a time growing up that I didn’t want to get out and move to a city. Since then I’ve lived in New York City, Chicago, Great Barrington (a fairly small town, but still Elsewhere), and now Raleigh.
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I started keeping a diary at 5. I started reading on my own around the same time and never stopped – if I could make a living through reading I would. I felt alienated and academically ignored during high-school, and left at 17 when I was accepted into an “early college” program: Bard College at Simon’s Rock. There I did theater for the first time, encountered critical theory, made my most lasting friendships, and expanded my awareness of LGBTQ and racial justice issues. I spent a rich two years there, but the campus was rural and I still wanted to get out of the woods.
While finishing my degree at DePaul University in Chicago, I took some journalism classes along with my American Studies major and wrote about people experiencing homelessness that I met in the city. Although everyone I knew anticipated I’d become an English major, studying literature always felt too insular and self-serving; I was drawn to fields that incorporated social sciences, history, and activism. The two spring break service trips I took during my time at DePaul bolstered what I had been learning about, vastly altering my perspectives on socioeconomic inequality and systems of oppression.
After graduation, I did a lot of things to stay afloat. I worked at a diner, bookstore, restorative justice center, small local newspaper, and a weird New Age shop. But I knew I wanted to do a year of service with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps before trying to figure out what my adult career was going to be (I still have no idea.) I’m not Catholic, but Jesuits are good people and I welcomed the opportunity to do a year of service while living in community with others. My housemates are five wonderful fellow volunteers, all working at different organizations throughout the city. As the first JV to work at Love Wins, I have no idea what this year will bring but I’m eager to find out.