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Ambrose Scholar Finds Joy in Giving

Leah Taylor rides a horse

Leah Taylor

May 2017


An unfortunate injury and a great health care professional led Leah Taylor to her goal – and to St. Ambrose University.

The recent graduate of University High School in Normal, Ill., is one of four Ambrose Scholars who will attend the university on a full tuition scholarship starting this fall, and she plans to continue her legacy of strong academics and active community involvement.

The Heyworth, Ill., teen was also offered pre-admittance to the university's Doctor of Physical Therapy program, which will allow her to earn class credit toward her doctoral degree even while she completes her undergraduate studies.

"Being an early admit to the DPT program was huge," Taylor said.

Taylor realized she wanted to be a physical therapist after she injured her ankle during her sophomore year, an injury that ended her high school volleyball and track careers, as well as her goal to play collegiate sports.

"It was so hard on me to lose something I had such passion for," she said. "Ashley, who was my physical therapist for three years, made me feel better physically, but mentally too. I want to be like her, to be that person who believes in people and gives them hope."

After she was injured, Taylor put all of her drive and dedication into academics and activities. Again, she soared.

"All my hard work is paying off and I am so excited," she said.

Taylor was co-valedictorian in her class of 160 students. Her junior year, she was vice president of U-Build, a community service group that tackles projects in the community and builds homes in Haiti. In that role, Taylor coordinated fundraising, planning, and volunteers for a trip to Haiti.

She was the leader of Stella A Cappella, a student-led vocal ensemble, and Taylor arranged and taught music to her peers. She also is a Praise and Worship team leader at her church. She said her activities keep her very busy but are very rewarding. In fact, she cites becoming a leader as her biggest accomplishment in high school.

"In grade school and junior high, I was very shy. But after my injury, I started putting myself out there more and I began feeling more comfortable and confident," she said. "Leadership was something I never thought I could do, but now I know I can. I am really proud of that."

Taylor grew up in the small Illinois town of Heyworth, in a house surrounded by five acres of woods with her parents and brother. Had she attended her community high school, she would have graduated in a class of 80. Instead, she drove a half hour to attend University High School, which is operated by the Illinois State University College of Education. Attending high school on the large college campus helped Taylor realize she wanted to attend a smaller university, one that would feel more like home.

Taylor said everyone at St. Ambrose has been welcoming, and her student tour guide went over and beyond, even showing Taylor her own residence hall apartment so she could get a taste of all the university has to offer.

She was also impressed by the Center for Health Sciences Education, a building where she will be spending a lot of time as she pursues a career as a physical therapist.

Taylor said she is ready to dive in and explore, and of course, become involved. The university's tradition of helping the community and impacting the world was an excellent fit.

"Where I find happiness is not really in getting stuff; it's about giving," she said. "It's about being selfless."

MORE LIKE THIS:AmbroseZine, For Prospective Undergraduates, Institutional-Campus

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