Although it never seemed impossible, graduating university started out as a daunting goal for Kim Taylor, who struggled to achieve good marks in high school.
Yet Taylor proudly graduated in 2014 with an Honours BA in Human Rights and Women’s and Gender Studies. The following summer, she joined a non-profit educational program called Up with People (UWP). The student-led initiative travels the world to promote community involvement with music and dance shows.
“Up with People inspires people to make a difference in their own community,” says Taylor. “It brings internationality to places which may not have international people, and hopefully leaves a positive impact wherever we go.”
After a semester with the cast, she joined UWP staff as an Education Co-ordinator in January 2016, beginning what she describes as a dream job.
She creates and facilitates workshops for about 100 international students on topics of leadership and timely world issues. Taylor says she gets to actively show cast members that she believes in them and helps them to realize they can achieve anything.
Her role as a facilitator for the Enriched Support Program (ESP) during her undergraduate years at Carleton was a perfect lead-in for this job. ESP is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2016.
Taylor says she discovered her own sense of accomplishment and pride about her work through the one-year transition program run by Carleton’s Centre for Initiatives in Education. As guides, ESP facilitators gave her the tools and information she needed to succeed in her first year in university.
At UWP, a group of international students come together in Denver, Colorado every January and July to develop that semester’s travelling show. The group then tours the world for six months, staying with host families and volunteering in all the communities they visit.
Taylor is the first to admit that the work she does today is thanks to the opportunities she received at Carleton.
“I can honestly say that ESP changed my life,” says Taylor. “The program taught me to take risks, to believe in myself and to believe in others. It made me the person I am today.”
Taylor also served as a program ambassador for ESP by making presentations to high school students, teachers and guidance counselors.
“Those who benefit most from this program are people who have struggled in high school,” she says. “I was so used to teachers thinking I wasn’t smart. The program was really the first time I felt truly capable, and that was such an empowering feeling.”
ESP has contributed to the success of more than 3,200 students since 1996, and Taylor defines herself one of the program’s success stories. Being able to travel abroad with people who want to change the world is incredibly important to her.
“My job at the ESP really made me passionate about working with young people and facilitating, so this job was perfect for me.”
Carleton Now will profile several ESP grads throughout 2016 in honour of the program’s 20th anniversary.