Bronco Spotlight: Taylor Sayers
Parent Literacy Navigator at the Kalamazoo Literacy Council
As a Parent Literacy Navigator with the Kalamazoo Literacy Council I have two primary roles. One is that I instruct a parent literacy curriculum that I built with the help of key partners. It is a truly multi-generational program that empowers parents to be the best first teachers of their children that they can be. All parents are adult learners who have personal goals as well as familial goals surrounding the support of their children. My primary duty is to serve as a navigator for the parents that I come into contact with. There are tons of barriers to obtaining services - childcare, housing insecurity, and food insecurity, to name a few. Since COVID-19 has shifted all our learning to virtual, we see the digital divide’s impact. Much of my navigation has come down to technology. I constantly work to help learners identify and remove these barriers so that they can focus on their learning. Literacy is a part of everything we do in life - when people go through life as functionally illiterate, they struggle to understand their health, have a career with a life-sustaining wage, and be a strong first teacher of their child. But for them to be able to focus on learner, we first have to remove the barriers that exist.
If you had a campus job or internship, how did they impact your career development?
I had an internship during my final year and it put me where I am today. I started out working under Don Cooney, which was a phenomenal experience. We did a ton of work with mass incarceration and returning citizens, which has been my biggest passion for a while now. When COVID-19 sent us virtual, these projects stopped. I met Michael Evans, the executive director of the KLC, through Don Cooney. I reached out to him to see if I could be of service and the KLC welcomed me with open arms. Through this internship I learned how huge of a social justice issue literacy is. I’ve been able to identify how this issue crosswalks into my previous passions with returning citizens. I am so thankful for this internship because I would have never done this without it.
What activities, resources, or people helped you prepare for your career?
The professors, specifically in my last year were instrumental. Michelle Weemhoff, Lyndsay Nuyen, Don Cooney - they had a huge impact on who I’ve become professionally. I will forever idolize them and hope for a time I get to work with them again! Bless these professors.
What advice do you have for others pursuing a career similar to yours?
My advice to others in this field comes down to two things. First, practice self care. A lot of it. All the time. In new ways. Social work can be rewarding and very draining. Take care of you because if you don’t, you won’t be able to take care of others. Second, don’t be afraid to try new things. I always saw myself going directly into the criminal justice field more intensively - corrections, probation, or somewhere directing an in-house program to support those getting ready to leave incarceration. Don’t get me wrong, these are still huge passions of mine, and some day I may end up there. But I may not. I love what I do right now, and I would have never even thought to try it if it weren’t for my internship. And so much of social work crosses each other - I work with returning citizens right now! Just in a different capacity. Get out of your comfort zone!