Class of 2020: Taylor Harvey
I remember when I first came to the University of Virginia back in the Spring of 2016. Immediately, something clicked that this place, ranging from the rotunda to the lawn and down to the corner, was special. And, though I could not define it at the time, it was a place of laughs, smiles, motivated people and special places dedicated to giving back to the community. But, more important than any single attribute, this University was a HOME.
Since arriving on grounds, I have felt a deep love for the Charlottesville community. We, as students, do not talk about how much this community does for the UVA community. From being our greatest support system, an understanding helping hand, or even a cheerleader, there is something so infectious about what I think can be deemed the “Charlottesville spirit.”
Despite this connection to the place and the people, my adjustment to college wasn’t an easy one. In my mind, I was doing everything right. I joined volunteer groups through Madison House, and various CIOs doing things I passionate about. But still, I felt like there was something missing. That was until a friend recommended that I apply to become a Big in the YWLP program through the Women’s Center.
Joining the program in 2018 was the missing piece in what I needed to make UVA feel like home. It rooted me into the Charlottesville community. I was placed at Jack Jouett Middle School in the group of 8th graders. Our group was a mixed bag, some Littles had been part of the program the preceding year, and others were new to the program.
To this day, I remember meeting my little our first day of group. I remember thinking to myself that I hoped she thought I was cool or that she liked me, something 20-year-old me, at the time, had not felt in a while. That all went away when I met my Little. To me, more than any specific moment in the program, I still remember just how amazing it was to see her transform from being shy and apprehensive to confident and relaxed in front of my eyes. While YWLP is dedicated to mentoring, I would be ignorant if I did not say that I learned equally as much from her and our group as I hope they learned from me.
I remember one of the most meaningful conversations I had with my Little was thanks to doing the Body Project sessions through the Women’s Center. We talked about self-love and appreciating the pieces of yourself that you love. To me, with my own insecurities, I remember thinking my Little was wise beyond her years as she said, “I am confident in who I am because only my opinion of myself matters.” She talked about negative portrayals in the media and how it was negative to both girls and boys. But, she spoke with such surety that it now makes me get a little choked up because she knew who she wanted to be and was going after it. But, YWLP could nurture her and help to maintain those thoughts long after the actual program was gone.
Because, the power of YWLP is simple: empowered people, empower others. Here was a group of girls that were not friends prior to our group. They, like all people had different likes, dislikes and interests. Yet, each week, you saw the walls come down, the answers become more vulnerable, small talk on the way into group, and most importantly real relationships began to form. I feel selfish in saying this, but it was inspiring.
For me, this reflection is a way for me to bookend my time at UVA: something I know many other fourth years also struggled with after the announcements of March 11 and the varying uncertainty that followed. But, I wanted to write this because, while everything should have been so very different, I feel the need to say thank you. Thank you to YWLP for making UVA my home. Thank you for being the ones that embody that original spirit I found so special and unique to UVA. This home will always lie in our hearts and our memories and I would not trade this experience for the world.