UNC Asheville Junior Kayla Taylor Wins Community Impact Award

Featured image: 
Kayla Taylor in West Ridge residence hall, where she is an RA in L.E.A.D., a social justice focused living-learning community.

UNC Asheville student Kayla Taylor has been recognized for outstanding leadership and service by North Carolina Campus Compact, a statewide network of colleges and universities with a shared commitment to civic engagement.

Taylor, a junior from Raleigh double-majoring in international studies and political science, is a recipient of the network’s Community Impact Award, which honors one student leader at each member school. She is one of 23 students at participating colleges across the state selected by their campus for the award this year.

Taylor spent her winter break traveling to both rural and urban parts of India as part of a UNC Asheville international studies trip. “Being uncomfortable is a catalyst for change and growth, and learning something new,” she said.

Taylor also uses traveling as a metaphor to describe her relationship to her civic engagement work. “It’s been a journey all throughout my life, witnessing injustice and not feeling empowered enough to do something about it. Once I came to college and integrated into the social justice community of greater Asheville, I learned a lot and got involved – acting upon what I wanted to do, which is help others. Working with people on and off campus has helped me consolidate my beliefs and start putting into motion what I want to do.”

An advocate for students at UNC Asheville and beyond, Taylor is a Student Government Association senator and the director of community engagement for the Student Organization Council, where she serves as a liaison between local agencies and student groups to facilitate service and partnerships. She lives in and serves fellow students as a resident assistant at L.E.A.D., a social justice focused living-learning community at UNC Asheville. She also is a fellow with the organization Ignite NC and in that role has worked to raise awareness of DACA and advocated for sanctuary for undocumented students.

“Because Asheville is such an intimate community, it’s easy to make connections, really profound ones, that sustain you in doing the social justice work you want to do,” said Taylor. This semester, she began some new connections, working to help, inspire and sustain students at Asheville Middle and High School as a tutor in the AVID program. “It’s really fun,” she says. “Instead of only connecting with faculty and students my age, it’s good to connect with kids in a meaningful way.

“In college, it can be easy to just focus on the books and try to finish in four years, but experiences outside of the classroom have been the most impactful and educational for me, interacting with people, helping them in some capacity – that’s been the most fulfilling part of my college journey,” said Taylor. Taylor’s future plans include graduate studies in urban planning and development, political science and Africana studies.