Like most new high school graduates, I was excited to matriculate at Eastern Illinois University in peaceful Charleston, Illinois. But in June 2001, tragedy struck the EIU campus. The murder of Shannon McNamara, a promising student and member of Alpha Phi, stunned the Charleston, Illinois community.
Before I was a member of the community, I stood by my future inter-fraternal brothers and sisters in a candlelight vigil for Shannon. It was truly moving to see everyone come together to console and support one another, while celebrating the life of a fellow student.
One of those students felt a call to action and truly became the silver lining in the cloud that hung over our community. Shannon’s sorority sister, Erin Weed, turned this tragedy into a reason to show college women how to fight back by launching Girls Fight Back! (read Erin’s story about Shannon here: http://girlsfightback.com/about/our-story). Erin now eats, sleeps and breathes helping others through empowering and educating young women.
I have heard wonderful things about Shannon from Erin Weed and her Alpha Phi sisters. I am most grateful to hear Shannon was a fighter: she struggled with her attacker. Although she lost the battle with him that night, she retained evidence of his identity at the crime scene which led his apprehension, conviction and death sentence. He is still living. But so is Shannon, in so many ways.
My niece begins her freshman year of college this fall armed with her copy of Erin’s Girls Fight Back! So I feel comfort knowing she will be empowered to be a strong woman; not a fearful one. As many women embark on their journeys into adulthood this year, I hope they look to incredible women like Erin Weed to find their strength, passion and home just as we did at Eastern Illinois University ten years ago.
The women of SureSister salute Erin Weed today and thank Girls Fight Back! for ten years of training, motivation, inspiration and sisterhood. Happy 10th birthday GFB!
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Mary Kate Lobough is a SureSister.com Ambassador. She is a past college Panhellenic Vice President of Public Relations and was a Greek Life graduate assistant at Eastern Illinois University. Mary Kate holds a bachelors degree in history and a masters degree in student affairs in higher education from the same institution. A member of Sigma Sigma Sigma National Sorority, Mary Kate has served on both advisory boards and housing corporations.
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