|Monday, December 17, 2012|
After Near-Fatal Accident, ODU Graduate Refocuses Her Life to Combine Academics and Service
Seven years ago, Ebone Taylor was lying in a hospital bed with a broken neck after her car was run off the road in her hometown of Richmond. The near-fatal accident was terrifying for her entire family, but for Taylor, now 24, the two-week stay in the hospital also became life defining.
Taylor, who received a master's degree in early childhood education from Old Dominion University on Saturday, said the accident refocused her life toward one of service.
"I've always liked helping people," said Taylor, "but the accident helped put my life into perspective. I realized we only have so much time here, and we need to make the best of it."
Though the accident left Taylor with mild brain damage, making it a challenge to remember things, she worked extra hard academically and will graduate with an A average. Taylor also earned an undergraduate degree in early childhood education from ODU.
During her six years in Norfolk, Taylor plunged into service projects. As an undergraduate, she began volunteering through the student-led outreach group TRUST (To Respect, Unite, Support and Teach), a community service-based organization whose goal is to bring about positive and transformative change in the world. Through TRUST, she began working as a mentor with students at Larchmont Elementary School.
"Our campus is growing so much," Taylor said. "As fast as we're growing, we need to give back to the community."
The stories she heard from some of the elementary school students inspired Taylor to do more. Through ODU's Center for Service and Civic Engagement (CSCE), in collaboration with the Lambert's Point Community Center, she created a program called Homework Helpers, which links ODU student mentors to area youngsters who have a difficult time getting the necessary support at home.
"I feel like today's parents are so busy trying to do what they can to support their families, that the kids can get left behind," Taylor said.
Also during her college career, Taylor went on spring break trips with other ODU students to do service projects in challenged communities in Chicago and Jacksonville, Fla.
"Ebone has been a huge part of the center from the moment she walked in here," said Tami Park Farinholt, CSCE coordinator. "Her work as a mentor with young people, and in creating the Homework Helpers program, demonstrates the passion she brings to her service every day."
Through TRUST, Taylor helped raise funds for a scholarship for a first-generation college student, which was created to honor Anita Thornton, a mentor coordinator and pre-kindergarten teacher at Larchmont Elementary.
After graduation, Taylor hopes to get a teaching job, but her ultimate goal is to create a nonprofit organization to help give young children the academic support they need during the critical early years.
Taylor said her parents, Sharon and Bobie, worried that the accident was going to keep Ebone, one of six girls, from realizing her dreams. Instead, it helped enable them.
"I'm a fighter," Taylor said. "I wasn't going to let this stand in my way."