Proximity to her home in Chaplin and the town of Willimantic, with its budding art scene and vibrant Main Street, is what originally drew Lily Egan ’15 to Eastern Connecticut State University. But a sense of community and change in career aspirations is what kept her here.
“I’ve always loved Willimantic, the arts, the culture,” said Egan, a communication major who originally planned to attend Eastern for two years before going on to fashion school. She remembers visiting campus for the first time. “A random student offered to show me and my father around campus. I felt right at home.”
That summer, Egan enrolled in STEP/CAP (Summer Transition at Eastern Program/Contract Admissions Program), an intensive program for first-generation, economically disadvantaged or underrepresented students.
“I grew up in a pretty poor household,” said Egan. “That (program) really helped prepare me for freshman year. We got a sneak peek of college life before everyone else.”
Egan’s career aspirations began to evolve when she became involved on campus. “During high school, I wanted to be involved, but couldn’t because of lack of transportation,” she said. “But here, it’s all in one place!” Egan joined the clubs Fashion Forward, Yearbook, Repertory Dance Troupe and People Helping People.
Eventually she found her way to the Center for Community Engagement (CCE), where she volunteered with CCAR (Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery), Windham Public Schools and CLiCK (Willimantic’s community kitchen). She even helped organize special events like Town Pride Town Wide (a town-wide trash pickup) and Eastern’s Poverty Awareness Marathon and fundraiser.
“I remember sophomore year when I was still in a rut because I was confused about my calling,” she said. “Then I asked myself, what have I always loved to do? Help people.” Egan recalled volunteering at homeless shelters and soup kitchens when she was younger. “It showed me that I actually had a lot more than I thought. It’s engrained in my blood; helping in my community is a part of who I am.”
Egan was able to incorporate her work with the community into a distinguished research project. Her project on food labeling and how people choose groceries based on packaging won first prize in the Communication Department at Eastern’s Excellence Expo, which led to her getting published and giving presentations at two other conferences.
Now that Egan has graduated, she wants to keep on this path, whether working in public health or in youth development. She has graduate school, AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps in mind.