Fall 2016

[News]

Champion of Change

Working to Prevent Sexual Violence

LEFT TO RIGHT: The CHECK IT team in front of the White House: Peer educators Marco Gonzalez (Environmental Resources Engineering) and Celene Lopez (’17, Psychology); Prevention Coordinator Mary Sue Savage (’12, Critical Race, Gender, & Sexuality Studies); and former Peer Educator Emily Goldstein (’16, Critical Race, Gender & Sexuality Studies).

PSYCHOLOGY MAJOR CELENE LOPEZ’S dedication to preventing sexual violence began at a Take Back the Night campus event two years ago. Her work has since led to an invitation to the White House and a national award.

“Learning about the prevalence of sexual violence hugely impacted me, and I knew that if I could do something about this, I had to,” Lopez says.

Moved by her experience at Take Back the Night, she attended a launch party for CHECK IT, a grassroots campus organization dedicated to preventing sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking at colleges. “I put the time and effort into CHECK IT because people deserve to live in communities that are safe,” Lopez says.

In April, she was recognized as one of 10 recipients of the It’s On Us White House Champion of Change award, which honors outstanding student leaders in the movement to end sexual violence at colleges.

At a White House event, Vice President Joe Biden lauded the award recipients. He said of Lopez, “She had the courage to ask some really tough questions to change the conversation on her campus about what constitutes consent.”

Lopez credits her peers for the program’s success. “CHECK IT is a big team effort. There’s no way to do a movement like this without the help of students across campus. I get to represent the work that so many students have done. This award is really for everybody,” Lopez says.

CHECK IT is a student-led movement that encourages students to challenge and disrupt harm happening in communities when they witness potential moments of sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. It provides the campus community with ways of helping that are realistic and match people’s personalities, identities, and communication styles.

As a CHECK IT peer educator, Lopez has done everything from conducting bystander intervention workshops and outreach, to designing CHECK IT materials, to supporting the work of volunteers.

“Celene’s incredible compassion, creativity, and energy working towards creating more consent-centered and accountable communities is an inspiration to many,” says CHECK IT Prevention Coordinator Mary Sue Savage (’12, Critical Race, Gender & Sexuality Studies). “This award is definitely the embodiment of everyone’s amazing work on campus and it’s exciting to have the opportunity to share about CHECK IT.”