On Campus Sexual Assault Prevention, Being Ready, and Getting Energized

claire kelling headshot

This is a guest post from a recent participant of the Futures Without Violence Campus Fellows Leadership Program. Interested in joining next year’s cohort? Applications are due June 30. APPLY HERE.


Last year, I was coaching middle school volleyball in the small town of Blacksburg, Virginia. I was in the middle of my final semester of college and I think I just felt ready – ready to graduate, ready to tackle graduate school, ready for the challenges that I would encounter next.

In the middle of my practice, I received a call from a restricted number – which ended up being the White House. After I tried to politely decline whatever they were trying to sell me so I could get back to my practice, I soon discovered that I was being invited to the White House to be given the Champion of Change award for my work on sexual violence prevention.

I still cannot accurately describe that day. I think my whole body felt like a sparkler for the entire day. Through this event at the White House, I was connected to students and activists working tirelessly to prevent sexual assault on their college campuses nationally. In one of our conversations, another campus fellow, Valerie Halstead, brought up her experience with the Futures Without Violence Campus Leadership Program, and I knew I had to get involved. Her connections, energy, and passion that she seemed to pull from this program were inspiring.

Before long, I was accepted to the program and flying to San Francisco to meet with the new cohort of Futures Without Violence Campus Leadership Fellows – a group of mostly graduate students that would continue to inspire, educate, and motivate me for the following 12 months, and I’m sure for far into the future.

The Campus Leadership Program is the perfect opportunity for leaders on college campuses to learn and absorb but also to teach and energize others. One thing that I have learned throughout the past 12 months as a Campus Leadership Fellow is that we all have places and times where we feel strong, powerful, and effective in our work to prevent sexual violence on college campuses. However, we also have times when we need support: when people aren’t emailing us back, or our event only brought a couple dozen people to the conversation. FUTURES has taught me not only how to create programming that will impact hundreds, but how to also respect and appreciate the fact that if we can effectively engage even a small number of people on campus, that has the potential to have a ripple effect across the community.

So now, more than 12 months after I first discovered this program at the White House, when I felt ready for anything, I now realize that I am perpetually unprepared. I’m not “ready” to make national change to prevent sexual violence or to draw hundreds if not thousands of people into this conversation on my campus but I believe now more than ever that the Campus Leadership Program gives us every resource and connection possible to do everything we can to create positive change on our campuses and in our communities.

I may not be completely ready, but I am energized, and I am determined to push for a future without violence.