Emily McEvoy is an active member of the Wesleyan campus community, a proud local resident, and a prolific grassroots organizer. “Town/gown relations” takes on new meaning when Emily has a seat at the table – or, this year, a square on Zoom. Emily’s civic engagement work is expansive in extent and character. She builds coalitions with thoughtfulness, inclusivity, and competence. She has held official positions in student government (the Wesleyan Student Assembly), a local non-profit (the North End Action Team), the regional business association (Middlesex Chamber of Commerce), and city government (Middletown Youth Services Bureau), and her unofficial affiliations are too many to count. Emily has spearheaded multi-stakeholder projects such as Middletown Mutual Aid and asset mapping for Middletown WORKS, a local economic development initiative. On any given day, you might find Emily restocking the community fridge, attending a teach-in about tenant unions, facilitating a youth leadership program on restorative justice, or reading for her environmental solidarity book club. She leads graciously and quietly, centering the voices of others rather than her own. Recognizing that existing power structures have created the problems that she seeks to address, she is careful not to recreate those power structures in her own efforts.
Arriving at a private university in the middle of my state was jarring when I realized its insularity; it too often hinders genuine connection to the world around it. I have dedicated my time here to combatting this. I started work with a student organizing group in my first semester and supported the efforts of a local grassroots nonprofit in Middletown: the North End Action Team (NEAT). We helped folks apply to social services and developed relationships with rooted community leaders. By the end of my freshman year, I had become a board member of NEAT and an active community organizer. I developed a knack and love for canvassing the neighborhood, and I got involved with coalitions focused on everything from racial justice to youth leadership to environmental solidarity and beyond. My leadership work is focused on wealth and power redistribution, in some cases from our campus to the community. For example, since April 2020, I have facilitated the Middletown Mutual Aid Collective, which has raised more than $60,000 and put it directly into residents’ pockets.