Volunteer service was a big part of Matt Rillie’s time at Illinois State. The Redbird alum became well known as a leader in the LGBTQ+ community while serving on ISU Pride’s executive board and as a coordinator for Leaders of Social Change.
“I think the service aspect with ISU is what resonates with me so much,” said Rillie ’15. “When I look back at why my time was so meaningful, it was the service learning.”
Rillie’s commitment to service and to Illinois State did not end with graduation. For the last two years, Rillie has served as the service project chair for the Chicago Young Alumni Network and organizes an event every couple of months to benefit a nonprofit within the city. In April, the network brought together a group of Redbirds to help students in an after-school program prepare their gardens in Logan Square for the growing season.
“We want to benefit the group that we are helping,” Rillie said. “You can really impact these programs, this city, and ISU all at the same time.”
It is exactly Rillie’s example that the Illinois State University’s Alumni Association is highlighting and hoping other alumni emulate this month. To align with the University’s core value of civic engagement, the association’s Redbird Engagement and Development (RED) Committee and the University’s Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning are holding the inaugural #RedbirdImpact Month in June to encourage alumni to give back in their communities.
“We have over 220,000 alumni who can continue to make an impact across the nation,” said Stephanie Duquenne ’04, M.S. ’15, director of Alumni Engagement. “Being civically-minded should not stop once you graduate. #RedbirdImpact Month is a launching pad to get Redbirds out in their communities and a way to highlight the amazing work being done.”
The month will culminate with #RedbirdImpact Alumni Weekend, June 21–23. All alumni and friends are invited to travel to campus for a weekend of service, engagement, and connecting. Several alumni groups, including the Chicago Young Alumni Network, are also holding events in their communities during June. Throughout the month, alumni can share why it is important to be civically engaged and their own service projects by using the hashtag #RedbirdImpact.
Illinois State School of Art alumna Hannah Carnes ’18 credits her parents for making service an important part of her life. Since graduating, she has found opportunities to combine her passion for art with community service. She is currently serving a 10-month term with AmeriCorps in Vermont, where she is teaching classes in photography and graphic design and doing marketing for a youth development organization.
During her time at Illinois State, she led three Alternative Breaks trips and participated in the program’s first long-distance trip over spring break. The group traveled to Sacramento, California, where the students installed solar panels on low-income housing.
“It was really magical,” Carnes said. “I’ve always wanted to make a positive difference.”
Rillie believes #RedbirdImpact Month can spur on more alumni to make an impact in their communities and embed service in their lives.
“This could be a catalyst of a lot of good things,” Rillie said.
Kevin Bersett can be reached at kberse@IllinoisState.edu.