As a biochemistry and molecular biology major, Julia Clevinger ’21 originally assumed that her free time at Gettysburg College would be filled with science-based activities and clubs. However, as she got involved in programs and organizations such as the Eisenhower Institute and the Center for Public Service, Clevinger soon realized the importance of being an engaged citizen beyond her academic focus, and the power each individual possesses to spark change in their community.
Hailing from the small town of Milwaukie, Oregon, Clevinger credits her community for helping to shape her upbringing. When she visited Gettysburg College and felt an overwhelming sense of familiarity to her home in Oregon, she knew it was somewhere at which she would continue to grow.
By being involved in the Eisenhower Institute’s Inside Civil Rights and Washington Connections programs, Clevinger has gained a broader understanding of her community, the country, and the world. Specifically, she has learned about the importance of public policy and the role that every citizen can play in government.
Clevinger’s focus in science did not deter her from wanting to participate in programs with the Eisenhower Institute. Rather, Eisenhower Institute programs are open to students of all majors and promote non-partisan discourse.
“I found that my thoughts and opinions were valid in a space where I had little prior experience, and the collaborative discussions encouraged diverse viewpoints so that everybody left with a broader perspective of our environments,” Clevinger said.
At Gettysburg, Clevinger has immersed herself not only in campus life, but in the surrounding community too. She has taken her newfound passion for engagement and service to the larger Gettysburg community by serving as the Special Olympics track coach at the Gettysburg Area High School.
“It was an incredible program with athletes who were committed and came to practice each week because they were excited to run and be a part of our team. I left every practice and meet with a heart full of love and contentment,” said Clevinger.
The Center for Public Service has also given her an outlet to be hands on in the community, and she credits these experiences as the most transformative to her college career so far.
In the fall of 2019, Clevinger worked at a local battlefield garden that donates its produce to the townspeople. Throughout this project, she was able to understand the work and dedication that is needed to grow food and the ways in which cultures associate food with love.
“Adams County is one of the top apple producing counties in the nation, and to understand and be a part of what it means to be a grower and a harvester made me appreciate the hard work it takes to grow food and the power of sharing it with others,” Clevinger said.
Currently, Clevinger is studying abroad in Kenya in the Global Health and Human Rights Program. After taking a global health class at Gettysburg, she decided she wanted to explore the topic more in an international setting. This experience is preparing her for her post-graduation goals of becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer and attending medical school.
“I believe that a doctor’s role is much more than just providing health care. It’s to serve the people, to act as the first line of defense for well-being for a patient,” Clevinger said.
Ultimately, Clevinger recognizes the influence her Gettysburg education has played in her development as a person.
“I think that any university could have afforded me an academic education, but Gettysburg has shaped me into a well-rounded student that understands the depth and levels of the issues we’re facing,” Clevinger said.
Learn more about opportunities for Community-Based Learning and Research at Gettysburg College.
By Marisa Balanda ’20
Photos courtesy of Julia Clevinger ’21