In an unlikely meeting, straight out of a hit tween TV show, Allie McAllister and Sara Jacques met by chance their freshman year at a club meeting. Just like any nervous college freshman, Allie took a leap of faith as she waltzed into Penn State’s Collegian newspaper interest meeting at the beginning of the year. It so happened that there was one seat left in the room — next to Sara. Now, as newly graduated alumni of Penn State for the 2020 school year, Allie and Sara’s story inspires us to find meaningful friendships, embrace the power of femininity and look for the connections among us.
A community environment and development major with a minor in visual arts focusing on painting, Allie McAllister certainly took one of the most interesting and unique academic paths she possibly could. Inspired by her passion for the environment, Allie took to the unique agricultural science major. Instead of a traditional environmental science path, she sought out a discipline that could allow her to focus on the relationship between people and the environment rather than solely technical science. The community environment and development major allows her to find the interdisciplinary focus between social and natural science to create change and foster sustainability but through people.
Soon enough, the people she met through her major, the professors and fellow students, became Allie’s community. Early on, Allie stepped into the Palmer Art Museum to visit the then exhibit “Plastic Entanglements.” In this show, there were over 60 works done by over 30 contemporary artists all across the world. The exhibit showcased pieces of art made out of plastic materials to showcase the intricacies and complexities of plastic use and our environment.
Allie immediately saw how art could be used to communicate the sometimes controversial but necessary environmental concepts to people from all over the world. From there, she saw her own potential to use art as a language to show people — no matter what background — the importance of protecting our planet. After graduation, Allie wants to use the arts to showcase the interconnected structural and community change necessary to save our environment.
Sara is a public relations and African American Studies double major with a minor in Spanish. Much of her academic and professional drive has been driven by her major in African American studies and passion for social justice. Initially, she picked up African American studies as a minor, but she soon realized she wanted to pursue it full time. Similar to Allie, Sara realized that her major in public relations was her own art of communication. Although public relations isn’t taught intersectionally, Sara saw that communication in terms of social justice allows for her to harness her objectives to make a difference.
Sara’s mission is to help people realize and understand how we as a society change institutions to intersect and be more sustainable. Through her studies, she came to understand the role of her majors in an increasingly intersectional world where everything is constantly evolving as we become more globalized. One example she gave was that it’s not just about the environment and it’s not just about racism anymore but the impacts of environmental racism. Her perspective on issues of social justice is constantly shifting as people become more and more intertwined.
At Penn State, Sara emphasized the importance of being a critical thinker and empathetic listener — especially when there are so many opportunities to learn and hear from other people. Getting exposed to new experiences, backgrounds and lessons have so much value if only others could reach out to people and talk and listen. As one of her culminating projects for Penn State, Sara just released a riveting and eye-opening documentary titled “Whiteness” about the systemic racism in the U.S. Give it a look here!
Allie & Sara
Allie and Sara’s chance meeting their freshman year sparked a rich and fulfilling friendship that has continued to this day. They have not only realized the value and importance of female friendship, but also the necessity to seek out meaningful relationships to help each other grow. A common theme among Allie and Sara’s experience is how they seek out the interconnection in their studies and their life — each introducing new experiences and topics to the other.
Allie and Sara recounted one of their most pivotal moments where they were able to talk through an important moment in Sara’s college life. Early on, Sara took a course for her African American studies major about the history of the Caribbean. She had no real idea about the Caribbean going into the class. One day, when her professor showcased the “Life and Debt” documentary about the horrific history and practices in the Caribbean, Sara hysterically cried after watching the film.
“I was wondering how to live a normal life with the knowledge of how truly messed up the world is,” Sara says. And after class, she immediately called Allie.
Allie distinctly remembers this day. She was doing work in Abba Java when she picked up the phone to a seriously upset Sara. They met outside of the Urban Outfitters on College Ave. and tried to decompress. They talked through the intensity of what Sara began to realize and attempted to find tangibility in the abstract concepts floating in a mess in Sara’s mind. They came to a strikingly profound and comforting conclusion.
“When you learn about all these realities of the world, it can be really difficult to cope because you feel hopeless that you can’t do anything. It’s the culture of quiescence,” Allie says.
Sara was feeling helpless because after watching such horrific realities of places such as the Caribbean, it can feel overwhelming and upsetting to know that one person can’t do anything. However, as they talked further, they realized that it’s important to understand that when you expose yourself to big issues of the world, what’s most necessary is to make it personal and bring it back down to the personal choices we make. A moment like this is what defines the very nature of Allie and Sara’s friendship.
They understand how to be vulnerable with each other.
“Whenever I need to talk with somebody right this moment and talk about issues of the world, I turn to her,” Sara says.
Allie and Sara developed a unique understanding and appreciation for their friendship.
“We are raised with ideas of what we should seek in college, like romantic partnerships, but a balanced friendship is a life partner. And we aren’t told to seek those out,” Sara says.
Their resounding message is that people need to work harder to find friendships that challenge each other to think deeper and help each other navigate the complex world together.
“As our lives are growing, so is our friendship,” Sara says.
Together they honor their individual and collective moments of joy in their lives as well as stand by each other during truly difficult and intense times.
“Western culture values productivity and time management to an unproductive extreme, but at the end of the day, individually, we want to be connected. We want to be together and have one person at minimum to be there for each other,” Allie says.
They help each other see new perspectives, learn new experiences, and appreciate what they have by practicing gratitude. The essence of Allie and Sara’s story is their evergrowing and undying valuable friendship with one another.
“A healthy friendship is having a healthy relationship with yourself. Find yourself and be comfortable to open up your mind and experience that with others. It’s such an amazing way to grow as a human being. We’re just unfortunately not as encouraged to do it, but if we take time to express gratitude for ourselves, we will realize that there is a lot more to life that we’re just passing up.”Allie & Sara