Feature Story

Putting Together the Pieces

“Service is the rent you pay to live on earth.”

This is the kind of quote that has been reiterated so many times, by so many people, in so many different ways, that there is no accurate account of the original speaker. Instead, people most remember it spoken by whoever inspired them with it first.  

Katie Taylor, a champion of social service, Hillary Clinton admirer, and devoted follower of Methodism recalls the quote as “something Hillary says all the time, a United Methodist saying” and uses it to guide her work, school, and spiritual life.

From a young age, Taylor knew she wanted to help people. She studied music therapy for two and a half years at the University of Kansas before refining her studies. Taylor felt passionate about music, but felt overwhelmed with the idea of making it her profession.

“Basically my entire life, I wanted to do music, but I just kind fell out of love with the music aspect because I was doing it 40 hours a week,” Taylor said. “And what’s music therapy without the music? Well, that’s social work.”

In her last year as an undergraduate in social work, Taylor works 36 hours a week at Healthcare Access, a health clinic in Lawrence for those with limited financial means.

Taylor said most of her clients make less than $15,000 a year and have families dependent on them.

“I talk to [the clients] if they’re new to our clinic, find out what their needs are, and I get them connected to other resources,” Taylor said.

Also this year Taylor is one of a team of leaders who created Wesley KU, a campus ministry for First United Methodist Church. This is the third United Methodist campus ministry Taylor has helped to create and lead during her time at KU. The other two have ended due to lack of funds, but Taylor continues to strive to build a successful campus ministry because she thinks students need to hold on to or discover their spiritual life in college.

“Coming to college, you don’t go to church. You don’t want to wake up on Sunday mornings and go,” Taylor said. “I think a lot of kids from 18 to 24 years old lose that religious part of themselves, and I think it’s really easy for them to get lost.”

Susan Mercer, the Wesley KU campus minister, chose Taylor as the worship leader for the campus ministry because she admires her incredible compassion and ability to use her faith in her work.

“She cares a lot for those who may not have as many advantages as other people,” Mercer said. “It comes out in a way that she is responsive and caring for others.”

As a social work student, Taylor has always felt strongly about social justice and need for change in the current state of the U.S.

“My whole world perspective is love and acceptance of everyone, and if everyone had that world perspective, we’d be sitting in a real different position than we are now,” Taylor said.

The results of the 2016 national election and the events during Trump’s first months in office hit Taylor hard. She was distraught, disappointed, and angry.

“I just want to stand up and let my voice be heard because our world cannot continue to be this way with the way Trump is running it,” Taylor said.

Taylor’s girlfriend, Jaime Hay, also studies social work and the couple shares a passion for social justice. On March 8, the two attended a women’s march in Topeka.

“The social work code of ethics requires that social workers advocate and participate in policy, and this is a cause Katie and I really care about,” Hays said.

After graduating in May, Taylor will spend a year getting her Master’s degree. She then plans on working at a juvenile detention center, where she can continue to reach out to those who need help.

Taylor’s passions for political social justice, social work, and her faith are just three of the “many puzzle pieces that make up Katie Taylor,” she said.  

“Doing social work, it’s not a very good paying job and it’s not easy work, but God calls me to love everyone. He calls me to help anyone in need, so it goes hand in hand.”