OHIO graduate remains committed to social justice personally and professionally

You can see Caroline Bresnahan strolling the streets of Athens, working in Nelsonville or scrolling through your TikTok and Instagram feed.

The 28-year-old OHIO alumnus graduated in the winter of 2016 from Patton College of Education with a degree in early childhood education. After graduating, she held various jobs, working in retail and living in places like Louisville, Cincinnati, and even as an au pair in Austria.

“I wanted to stay in Athens from the day I graduated,” Bresnahan explained. She figured she should go away for five years after graduation, and if she still felt the same way, she would consider moving back to her college town.

In September 2021, she returned to Athens with her companion.

“What attracted me were small businesses. I love the vibe we have here,” Bresnahan said. “I love what feels like a commitment to sustainability, to knowing your community, the farmer’s market. I love nature here. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more comfortable anywhere than here.

Bresnahan’s professional life and social media presence are both rooted in social justice causes that she is passionate about.

She remembers listening to a podcast in 2020 about the inner workings of a California prison and knew she wanted to volunteer with the prison population one day. Now, two years later, through the OHIO Career Ready Campus, Bresnahan teaches classes four times a week, primarily at the STAR Community Justice Center in Nelsonville.

The program, which is funded by the Aspire Grant from the Ohio Department of Education, is housed at Patton College of Education in OHIO. The four-year program aims to teach free career readiness, life skills, job training, GED readiness, and more in Athens and Hocking counties, as well as on OHIO regional campuses.

Bresnahan courses are offered through the program’s Correctional Education Partnerships. She teaches courses on career readiness and soft skills, while planning lessons and activities for students.

“It’s a springboard for people who are incarcerated but about to be released into the community,” Bresnahan said.

She explained that the classes take place during individuals’ 180-day stays at the justice center, but the time allows her to get to know them and connect with them.

“I had a lot of gentlemen who made a strong impression on me,” she said. “I think the most defining moments come towards the end of the course for me. Usually it’s also close to when they are about to be released. So they really talk about who they’re returning to, who they can’t wait to see. Often that’s when they feel comfortable enough with me to share.

When Bresnahan isn’t teaching, she’s probably dancing energetically in front of her phone creating videos for Instagram and TikTok. She describes this aspect of her life as: “a totally separate vibe, but also still rooted in social justice in some way.”

Her alternate persona fully took root in 2018 after creating an Instagram page to share daily outfits.

“I was just sending my mum pictures of my outfit every day. So I started a little Instagram page called ‘Just Me and My Mirror’ because they were just mirror selfies – shoddy , cropped weirdly, and I just started posting them and it was like anybody wanted to be a part of that, be a part of that,” Bresnahan said.

As someone who enjoys styling clothes and putting outfits together, Bresnahan has found an outlet through the plus size social media community.

“What has always been a form of joy for me is creating an outfit, looking cute and feeling confident,” Bresnahan said. “I started designing an outfit every day, taking pictures and posting them every day and engaging specifically with the big community on Instagram.

As she continued to engage with this community, her page began to gain traction. Bresnahan described his subscriber count growing from 600 to 10,000 in six to eight months.

“It started to be more about talking about the plus size experience and learning about releasing and accepting fat,” she said. “I think plus size fashion has such a powerful niche on the internet. There are so many people who are so eager to be able to express themselves in a way that was not accessible and is finally becoming so. Learning to find your style in a time when clothes are accessible, you need advice. I think I make outfit videos in a really fun and different way, because they always include dance, energy and l ‘excitement.

As social media platform TikTok has grown, Bresnahan’s content and energy has translated perfectly into the app. Similar to her Instagram, her account started as a way to follow the trend of doing fun dances to songs. She described that once she made her first outfit video on the platform, her followers grew there as well.

Bresnahan now has 68.6k followers on Instagram and 144.8k followers on TikTok.

“Honestly, I love it — I hate it, but I love it,” Bresnahan said of TikTok. “It keeps me up too late and gets my brain boiling, but it’s also such a great form of community and education for me and myself to learn.”

She has many goals for using her platform, primarily reclaiming the word fat, educating others, and advocating for the release and acceptance of fat, while creating a positive space on social media.

“When I talk about fat acceptance and fat release, and when people talk about it, it’s about access,” Bresnahan explained.

Caroline Bresnahan
Caroline Bresnahan – Photo by Eli Burris

“It’s not a bad word,” she said of the word fat. “It’s the same as tall, dark, freckled – all the other things I am.”

She described many barriers that plus-size people face in everyday life beyond finding the right size options, such as getting enough health care, learning about health at the school, prejudices at work and the ability to travel.

“I just want the kids to know that they’re fine the way they are and that they can trust their bodies,” she explained. “I think the biggest thing I’ve given back to myself is confidence. My body is going to do what it needs to do, and that’s good.

As her social media presence continues to flourish, Bresnahan is exploring her status as an influencer. She recently hired an agent and partnered with various clothing brands.

“I’m trying to use my platform and my power right now, especially with the people I come into contact with,” Bresnahan said. “When I do a deal with a brand, I look at their sizes, their representation on their pages – social media and their websites.”

She explained that if the size and representation of the brand does not meet her standards, she will report it or choose not to represent the company.

As his multifaceted success continues, Bresnahan finds joy in giving back to the Athens community and reconnecting with the city.

Although she has lived in many places, moved frequently and held many jobs throughout her life, Bresnahan described the feeling of finally not looking for what lies ahead and being happy where she is. .

“It was just interesting to discover this city on a completely different page in my life,” she said of Athens. “This city is cooler than the other places I’ve been, and I just wanted to be a part of it. So I’m happy to be here now, doing the thing.

Follow Caroline, @justmeandmymirror, on Instagram and TikTok.

Elna M. Lemons