This year as a community, all Cheverus students, faculty and staff read the book One Goal by Amy Bass, an inspiring story of how the game of soccer has the power to transcend boundaries of race, religion, socioeconomic status, and nationality. One Cheverus student, junior Caroline Taylor, recently put that powerful message into action as she took part in an immersion trip to India focused upon empowering young girls through the game of soccer.
Over Thanksgiving break Caroline traveled to Pune, India for a nine day journey with Limitless Child International a program that creates opportunities for vulnerable children from orphanage care and impoverished communities to help them realize their full potential and thrive. According to the vision statement of the Organization, Limitless Child International, “brings play, learning, and social connections to India's most vulnerable children. Because all children have the right to a thriving childhood.”
Caroline is an honors student who grew up in Sanford and attended the Saint Thomas School in Sanford, her family recently relocated to Biddeford. In addition to playing on the girls varsity soccer team, Caroline is also a member of the varsity softball team and is active in the Key Club.
On the journey, Caroline worked closely with a trained coach, Katie Lamarre who is a member of the University of New England women’s soccer team (and a teammate of former Cheverus girls’ soccer captain Katie Gordon ‘17) to teach the girls basic soccer skills, but most importantly this positive interaction helped to boost they girls’ sense of self, and created positive connections with strong young women.
Jenny Mills, the Limitless Child program executive director who accompanied the participants on the trip remarked, “Caroline is a thoughtful, observant young woman, who immediately and genuinely connected with the girls she coached….she opened herself up to learning about the girls she met... I think that Caroline was deeply impacted by the first-hand experience of being in a slum environment and learning about the difficult life circumstances of the girls she coached. However, despite the profound differences in their lives, Caroline and the other peer coaches truly connected with the girls from India around their similar hopes and dreams and shared questions about what it means to be a teenager.”
Caroline praised Mill’s leadership of the program, “I could not think of a better person to take us to India, I was not nervous at all because she is so familiar with the area and the culture; she loves India!”
Just as she served as an inspiring role model for the young girls, Caroline was, “inspired by the fact that although they lived in a very impoverished region, with extremely limited resources, they were happy and joyful and loved to play.” Caroline was moved by how much the girls “just wanted to be around us and learn about our lives -- they wanted to see pictures of my sisters and my friends.”
In addition to her work with soccer, Caroline had the opportunity to explore the cities of Pune, Jaipur, and Delhi, enjoy traditional Indian meals and a traditional dance performance, and explore bazaars and open air markets. One additional impactful experience was learning about the work of the ASHA Crisis Intervention Center and its Girls Empowerment Program, designed to provide support for the whole person for young girls. By providing support such as financial assistance, tutoring, and life skills instruction, the ultimate goal of the center is to remove and reduce the barriers that lead girls to teen marriage, school drop out, and child labor.
According one of the group leaders Minal Dani, “When a woman is battered and bruised, and thrown out of her home without any belongings or children, and comes to us for help, we want her to understand the whole process and then make decisions for herself. There can be decisions which can give her instant relief versus decisions which can help her in the long run. Our job is to empower the woman and encourage her to make the long-term decisions.” Since 2011, ASHA’s programming has helped 38 girls to achieve post-secondary education.
Upon her return from a region of the world plagued by pollution and extreme poverty, Caroline states, “I have gained a new appreciation for our living conditions, to have access to running water, showers and clean air.” She has also remained in frequent contact with the other American participants and hopes to encourage a friend or two from Cheverus to return to India with her next year. Applications for participation in this program are available now. Apply now for the 3rd Annual Soccer Trip
“On the last day, I watched Caroline pass out individual, hand-made cards, which she had worked on for hours the night before, to each of the 15 girls in her group. She had put a lot of thought and time into her cards. The smiles and hugs and long, long goodbyes said it all.” said Mills, “The human bond and connection, as well as the skills of soccer, had made a difference.”
What are you studying at Villanova? What inspired you to pursue this course of study?
I am an environmental science, philosophy, and geography triple major. I am particularly interested in ecosystem ecology and political/women and gender studies philosophy. I knew I wanted to study environmental science and participate in undergraduate research after taking AP bio with Ms. Cicy Po and AP environmental science with Ms. Erika Rhile. These teachers fostered my academic interests and challenged me to engage with the science community. These women remain incredible mentors to me throughout my college experience.
I was a part of the Sebastian Rale Debating Sodality with Mr. Haskell throughout my four years at Cheverus. The debates, research process, and case writing inspired me to pursue philosophy at the undergraduate level. I am taking advantage of the liberal arts curriculum at Villanova; I am appreciative for Mr. Haskell and all of the debate team members.
Could you briefly describe your internship?
I spent the summer after my freshman year in Northern Alberta, Canada, close enough to the arctic circle that the sun never set. I was there as a research assistant for Dr. Melanie Vile and Dr. Kel Wieder. Drs. Vile and Wieder are bio-geochemists. Their research surrounds boreal peatland ecology and post-fire vegetation regeneration. While in Canada, my responsibilities included lots of field work, monitoring photosynthesis/respiration chambers, lab work analyzing carbon sequestration, and lots of organizing samples. This work inspired me to begin an independent project on underground nitrogen fixation. While in Canada, I collected samples and did a lot of lab work. I am currently waiting on an isotope analysis to come back from a different lab so I can begin manipulating the data and writing about my findings. This internship was an incredible opportunity for me to pursue research at a higher level. This past summer I accepted an offer for a summer undergraduate research grant with the National Science Foundation and the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.
How did your Cheverus education prepare you for your current experiences?
Cheverus prepared me for college in ways I am still seeing. Specifically, Cheverus taught me how to write. Being able to communicate in subjects like English, science, history, and philosophy has been a valuable tool for me at school. I have integrated the writing techniques I learned at Cheverus into every class I have taken. I should probably give all of the credit to Ms. Mahar, my English teacher for three years at Cheverus. I find myself constantly editing my papers -- how I remember her corrections. Cheverus also instilled in me great time management skills; but more importantly, I am thankful for Cheverus for my friendships that have lasted beyond high school.
What is the most rewarding/exciting aspects of your post-Cheverus experience?
I have had a very positive Cheverus and post-Cheverus experience. I am thankful for the relationships that I cultivated there, the academic guidance I received, and a lasting sense of community when I return home from break. I realize it has changed quite a bit in the last few years, but Cheverus remains a positive influence on my education and personal growth.