Jake Taylor, who entered the University of Alvernia campus as a freshman four years ago, is not the same man who sat at a table near Francis Hall on a recent sunny May morning.
That first Taylor was more focused on athletics than on science. He was a little insecure and looking to create a new, as yet uncertain identity.
Taylor, who shared his story 11 days before he walked the stage and accepted his college diploma, is a scientist. He is a young man full of confidence. This is a person who knows who he is and who has plans for the future.
“It’s just amazing how much I’ve achieved in the last four years,” the 22-year-old said with a smile.
The path Taylor would take was not always so clear, it was not always guaranteed. He calls his childhood in York County turbulent, one that doesn’t usually lead to success in higher education.
As a child, Taylor spent a lot of time in courtrooms, where he and his two sisters were the subject of a long and fierce struggle for custody. He jumped back and forth between his parents’ houses, lacking the stability he wanted.
And his father David Taylor died in his last year at a high school in the suburbs of York. It could have been the moment that pushed him over the edge that sent him down a dark and destructive path.
Instead, he went the other way.
“I knew that education was a kind of escape to make a living and overcome the trauma of youth,” he said. “I wanted to invest in my education to overcome what I went through.”
Alvernia gave him the opportunity to do just that. It was a place where he instantly felt the connection.
“It was the only tour on campus where I wasn’t grumpy,” he said with a laugh.
Taylor initially planned to play football in Alvernia, but eventually decided not to play. Instead, he focused on his school and extracurricular activities that would improve his future professional prospects.
“I am forever grateful to have done that,” he said.
Postponing athletics, Taylor was able to put a lot on his plate in Alvernia. He received dual majors in criminal justice and philosophy, and studied mathematics and law.
He also participated in the program of work and study in the school financial aid office for four years and spent three years as a permanent assistant, helping to accept and guide new students. And he was an intern at one of the law firms that helped him and his sisters when they were children.
“It was some kind of full circle moment,” he said.
Taylor said his interest in law stems from his childhood and positive experiences working with lawyers who helped him navigate the legal system. He said he initially thought he wanted to work in law enforcement, but after arriving in Alvernia he realized that he had many other legal options available to him.
He is now on his way to enroll in law school in the fall of 2023.
Taylor said he likes the complexity of the law, the fact that even though it looks like black and white, there’s actually plenty of room for gray. He said he enjoys being able to solve problems with logic and create new ideas that challenge old ones.
This part of the law, he said, also attracted him to philosophy.
“I always say I’m a thinking person,” he said. “I like to challenge my faith, I like to think about great ideas such as the meaning of life or what knowledge is. Philosophy, it just makes you think about the world differently, look at all the small details.
Before going to law school, Taylor will finish his MBA in Alvernia next year – which explains the math. He said he once worked for a lawyer who was also an accountant, and realized it gave him a better understanding of many legal issues.
As for his long-term plans, Taylor says that after graduating from law school, he plans to practice law for at least some time. He said he could see that he would eventually return to the academy as a professor. Politics could be another option, he said, saying he would like to work on the school board or some other local elected office.
With academia and politics, he said, he will have a chance to give back.
“I want to share my experience and give it back to the community,” he said.
Of course, working as a resident assistant, Taylor already has some experience passing on what he has learned. He said he sometimes finds it strange to think about it, remembering when he first listened to senior students ’speeches on campus, and realizing that he is now in a different role.
But, he said, he is happy to pass on any wisdom he can.
“I tell them that college is what you make of it,” he said. “It simply came to our notice then. I tell them to be brave, to be open to new experiences.
“The scholarship allows you to overcome all your past problems and really become the person you want to become.”
Opening of the University of Alvernia
When: Saturday, May 14th. The ceremonies will be held at 9.30 and 14.30
Where: University of Alvernia Stadium.
Number of graduates: 671.
Speaker (s): State Senator Judy Schwank.
Other: Schwank, Alvernia proxy Barry Schlauch and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will be awarded diplomas.