At American University, we all have our own passions and projects, but it’s students like Miranda Lang who remind us nothing is impossible, especially if we have a great mentor to guide us. In just one month, Miranda raised over $3,000 and collected thousands of feminine hygiene products for Thrive DC, a resource center for those experiencing homelessness in DC. She is our CAS Woman of the Year because of her amazing capacity for advocacy and fundraising which she learned from her parents at a young age. She also demonstrates in-depth knowledge about the issue of homlessness that has been gained from face to face time with those experiencing the problem. Miranda shows us that when we find the issue that we care about, our passion can fuel our advocacy, and we can succeed.
Her Campus American University: Where did you grow up? What is your family like?
Miranda Lang: I grew up in West Virginia but I went to boarding school in Pennsylvania. I went to Marymount [University] for my freshman year in Arlington, Virginia. I transferred to American because I wanted a more diverse college. I am an only child, so it’s just my parents and I, but I have a very large extended family. I am extremely close with my parents and we have a farm.
HCAU: What kind of farm is it?
ML: My grandfather decided to turn his land (400 acres) that used to be used for stripmining into a farm during his retirment. So at one point he was a donkey breeder, he turned it into this awesome property and eventually my dad took over. There is a cabin, barn, man-made lake, it has a lot of family history.
HCAU: What made you decide to choose feminine hygiene products as your focus for the donation drive to the women’s shelter?
ML: The majority of us find our passion because we’re surrounded by people who are so engaged. I was at Thrive DC and volunteers were passing out hygiene kits and I didn’t see any feminine hygiene products. The volunteer I spoke to said we could only offer them when we had them available. So I thought that was strange since such a large age group of women who need these every month might not have access to them. I decided to do a donation drive for feminine hygiene products for Thrive as a final project in Health in the Digital Age [class]. I volunteered there to gain more hands-on experience, and learn about what the women needed and wanted, because I didn’t want to assume anything.
HCAU: How did the drive go? How did you get so many donations?
ML: My original goal was only $250. I used my GoFundMe page where I could include a lot of information. For example, a woman needs roughly 21 products for every period. Within 48 hours I had over $1,000. Each time I got a donation I would text my roommate to celebrate. Professor Woods said to make the goal $2,000. My GoFundMe page got shared around the world through my sorority. I also got physical product donations from friends and family here and back home. Ultimately, I was able to donate over 3,000 products plus a check for over $3,000. They now have steady stream of products. I solely used Facebook, Twitter and word of mouth.
HCAU: What do you think needs to be done to better help the homeless in DC?
ML: Prior to this year I never thought of homelessness as a community service effort I could get involved in. The biggest thing we can do is realize that homelessness is not a noun – it’s an adjective. Just because you experience homelessness once doesn’t mean you experience it forever.
HCAU: What makes you feel powerful?
ML: A very awesome and detailed calendar; if you have your calendar together you can rule the world.
HCAU: What advice do you have to empower other women?
ML: My biggest piece of advice would be to just be supportive, and be supportive without necessarily agreeing. Even if their opinion differs from your own you can still support the fact they are going out on a limb and they are trying something new as a woman if the overall motive differs from your own.
HCAU: What are you passionate about?
ML: Community service! My parents are extremely involved in the community, but they never tie their name to anything. Growing up I always tagged along. They did general support and donations in the community. In high school I was required to do extracurriculars, and I chose community service. I had around 200 hours in the first two years. I was a Freshman Service Experience leader for the Center for Community Engagement and Service at AU. It was good for me because the point is to do community service with freshmen. I found Thrive DC through that. They work with those currently experiencing homelessness. It gives them meals, holds clothing donation drives, and dispenses hygiene products, among other things. So it really all stems back to my parents and family.
HCAU: What women do you look up to?
ML: I think this is always the cliché answer, but my mom because she is a super cool lady. She paid her way through college but she gave up her original aspirations to teach, and helped start, run and sell a business with my dad. She has done marketing, HR, paperwork and phone calls. She went back to get a masters degree in education when I was in middle school. I can’t imagine getting a masters in anything let alone when you have a ten-year-old. And her commitment to service inspires me; she is so generous. She also has a great sense of style and compassion, which is the ultimate combination. Plus her calendar is beautiful!
HCAU: Is there anything else you want to add?
ML: Professor Steph Woods is truly the embodiment of what a professor, mentor and a friend should be. I took her first Hunger Games course, and that made me become an American Studies major. I loved it and adored her so I took Health and the Digital Age, and now I am taking Social Media and Activism. She was so helpful to me because she pushed me in a way that I never would have pushed myself. The entire project would not have been possible without her. She drops everything for her students.
Photo Credit: Kristie Chua