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Blair Welsh, Sociology Senior

Head of the CLAS

Blair WelshBlair Welsh

When Blair Welsh enrolled in her first women’s studies class, Interdisciplinary Perspectives of Women, as a UF freshman, she felt empowered to make a difference in the lives of girls and women. But just as she had a hard time picking a major due to her many interests and passions, she also found it difficult to focus on just one organization worthy of her efforts.

After brainstorming with her friends, classmates and professors, Blair decided to establish the Women’s Interlocking Network (WIN)—a student service group that unites the women of UF with women in need in the Gainesville community. Each Saturday, WIN members volunteer for a different non-profit organization, including Habitat for Humanity, St. Francis House, Pleasant Place Transitional Home for Girls, the American Cancer Society, Girl Scouts and Palm Garden Assisted Living.

WIN organizes weekly service opportunities throughout the academic year and takes care of all the arrangements—removing the headache and paperwork that sometimes limit would-be philanthropists from getting involved. And those with only an occasional Saturday to spare need not feel guilty, as they are welcome to come and go as their schedules allow.

“I think what we wanted to do was make service fun,” said Blair. “We all lead busy lives as college students so WIN has an open door policy. People can come and go as they please and it is always a warm and fun environment. I’ve found that positive reinforcement is key. Saying to someone ‘Wow, you took a couple of hours out of your Saturday afternoon to come out and broaden your horizons,’ validates their time and lets them know they are appreciated.”

Community outreach is not new to Blair. She grew up watching her mother, Claudia, organize a service organization for teenage girls through the National Council of Jewish Women, lead a food program among Ft. Lauderdale’s homeless, reach out to battered women through Women in Distress, and work for the Juvenile Diabetes Association.

“My parents have been the driving force behind everything I do,” Blair said. “My mom is an amazing role model, not just because all of her accomplishments, but simply because she was a great mom to me. She’s my best friend.”

Another influential woman in Blair’s life is favorite professor Amanda Davis, who inspired her to add women’s studies as a minor to accompany her degree program in sociology. Davis is an English Ph.D. candidate and teaches courses in English and women’s studies.

“Luckily, I took her class the end of my freshman year and it focused my interests,” said Blair. “I think the coupling of her passion for what she teaches, along with her dedication and caring for her students, is something you find rarely not just in a college professor but in a teacher. She takes a personal interest in her class and will go out of her way to make everyone feel like it is a second home.”

In addition to her work for WIN, Blair is active in the Women’s History Month Committee at UF and spends her summers working with seriously ill children as a counselor at Camp Boggy Creek in Eustis, Florida. Over spring break this March, she will conduct HIV/AIDS outreach in Atlanta through Florida Alternative Breaks, organized by the Dean of Students Office.

After she graduates in May, Blair is moving to Philadelphia to serve as a middle school science teacher in a low-income district through Teach for America. “I want to be the kind of teacher I have been inspired by,” Blair said. “In my family, education has always been the thing that opens doors for people, and through all my classes and my experiences, I have learned how education is the gateway to a better future. I want to be a part of that.”

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Buffy Lockette

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