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“When I came to IU, I enrolled in a university,” says Gabrielle Reed, an IU senior and former Miss Indiana. “What I found was a community and a home.”
Strong words from an IU student, but not surprising if you know about her journey to IU. And as with so many IU students, the opportunities Gabrielle found at IU became the foundation for helping to better the world around her.
Gabrielle left home at the age of 17. Originally from Los Angeles, she and her mother moved to Bluffton, Indiana, in 2000, and then to Fort Wayne in 2005, after her mother married for a second time. However, the relationship between her mother and new husband turned verbally abusive. Then it became violent.
“It started to influence the relationships I was building as a teen,” Gabrielle recalls. “Once the violence escalated, I decided it was best for me to move on and start the healing process.”
Although she had been accepted at Indiana University for fall 2007, Gabrielle returned to her extended family in Los Angeles. Two weeks before classes began, she had a change of heart. She wanted to go to IU. “I think the admissions office thought I was joking,” she says. “But they mailed me the paperwork and I showed up in Bloomington never having been here. It was an impulse that turned out to be really fortunate.”
For Gabrielle, IU was a new beginning. She began her studies as a vocal performance major. She also discovered the Miss Indiana Scholarship Pageant. She needed scholarship support to help her stay in school, and the pageant would give her valuable performance experience. But most of all, she says, “I had a new cause I was really passionate about.”
Gabrielle’s platform became “Empowerment From the Start: Communities Preventing Domestic Violence.” As Miss Indiana, she began to speak publicly about domestic violence prevention and her own experiences. She even spoke at her old high school.
“It was incredible and indescribable,” she recalls. “Facing that community was really hard, even as a different woman, someone who had really grown up and progressed. Some students expressed gratitude because they were going through the same thing.”
Gabrielle also found other ways to give back at IU. Through the Women’s Student Association, she connected with Bloomington’s Middle Way House, a domestic violence program and rape crisis center. She volunteered, starting with the center’s crisis line.
“Being able to give back in that way was really incredible. And it was helping my healing as well,” she says. “IU was providing me with not just an academic education, but also an education for life and how I should live it.”
Today, Gabrielle works for Middle Way House as she finishes her degree. She also still volunteers. She is on call to support victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault. At the emergency room, Gabrielle is a pillar for victims of domestic abuse at their most vulnerable.
Gabrielle’s road to IU and how she’s helping others is her special story. Other IU students have their own visions of improving the world. Your support helps make their aspirations a reality.