Volume 97 Issue 5 Campus Spin

Humans of Juniata: Taylor Garaffa

by Jamie Mistretta

“I have a lot of cousins and we’re all about the same age, so any [childhood] memory I have is about being silly with them. We used to play this game, ‘Bowling for Children,’ kind of funny, I know. My mom or my aunts and uncles would come down. We had this ratty old mattress in our basement. There were six of us 6-year olds, and we had this big ball and would all jump on the mattress. The adults would throw the ball, and if you would jump and land on it, you would obviously wipe out. I don’t know why, but we loved that game. Every time we were together, that’s what we’d do.”

Taylor Garaffa, a junior from Lancaster, Pa., who is majoring in Pre-K through fourth grade education, is a unique Human of Juniata. “I recently, just now, junior year, figured out what’s important to me and what I really want to put my time into. I really am involved in a lot right now, but probably what I’m most proud of is Relay for Life. I’m the co-chair for this year. I was just a team captain freshman and sophomore year, but this year Kiersten McKenzie and I are co-running it. Cancer has affected my life in a couple of different ways. I know it affects everyone, too, so I’m not going to try and say I’m unique in that. I am just really blessed with the people I’ve met from [Relay for Life], the stories I’ve heard and the amount of help I’ve been able to give to people because of Relay. It’s probably the closest [activity] I hold to my heart and I am really proud to be a part of it.”

Helping raise money for cancer is only one of many philanthropic projects Taylor has been a part of throughout her life. Along with fundraising, volunteering at the Special Olympics, and many more, Taylor reflects on one of her first community service missions. “When I was in high school I went on a mission trip to Brazil and I got to be around kids. We went to orphanages and different tribal villages and met kids along the way. They were different than any other kids I’ve ever really met. They were so loving and, I don’t know, different. I realized that I’d never been as happy as I can be when I am with kids. I think they have a spirit about them that most older people don’t, which I guess is kind of rude, but they just make me happy.”

Even with being so involved outside of class, Taylor demonstrates impeccable academic involvement. “I genuinely like all my classes, but probably Language in the Brain was my favorite because it was very interesting to me. It was about brain development and how students’ language develops, and from that comes reading. [I learned] how to teach reading and about the brain. I also really like my classes with practicums attached to them. Not only do I get to sit in the classroom, but I get to go out in the schools too.”

It doesn’t stop there. Along with being active in the classroom and in service, Taylor is also present throughout Juniata’s campus clubs and activities. “I’m the fundraising chair for NSLS, so I’ve become kind of involved with that. We just had our first big fundraiser, a corn hole tournament this past weekend, which was a lot of fun. Relay for Life and CAC, which is kind of like Relay, colleges against cancer. We do breast cancer awareness and all that stuff. I tutor a local student. She is in fourth grade this year. I’ve been tutoring for a year and a half now. I really enjoy the time I get to spend with her. I babysit some local kids as well because I work at the ECEC as well so I do after care there so I get to spend two hours for class and then I spend two hours where I can relax a little bit and just play with the kids. From that, I’ve met some families that I just adore and I babysit for them. I’m the student assistant for the education department right now, which has been interesting. I’ve had a lot of fights with the copy machine, but it’s fun and I’ve done some cool things. I don’t play right now, but I did play soccer. I’m going to play again this spring. In the fall I couldn’t play because of all the other things I’ve been doing. I work staff events and work security at football games. There’s got to be more! My life is just meeting after meeting.”

Like many of us at Juniata, Taylor is busy getting involved in any way she can. She concludes with some compelling advice to her fellow students. “Take the time to figure out what’s important to you and then don’t be afraid to pour everything into it. That can be anything, but just take the time to let yourself know what’s important. I think people will be a lot happier when they do that.”

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