At 18, Taylor Haller is no stranger to serving her community.
A high school senior when classes begin at Susan B. English School later this month, Taylor volunteers as an ETT, emergency trauma technician, and firefighter for the city of Seldovia.
When a fire broke out on Hesketh Island earlier this summer, Taylor was part of the response team that also included her father, Seldovia Chief of Police Shad Haller, her mother, Tiffany, and two of her siblings, all of whom volunteer with Seldovia’s Fire and EMS.
Recently, Taylor was notified she had been selected for another avenue of service.
“My mom and I were sitting at the table, and she gave me some papers. I didn’t know what it was at first, but kept reading and it sounded like something I’d be interested in because I volunteer for pretty much everything here,” she said.
As a result, after applying, Taylor has been notified she will serve with 19 others from around the nation on the Youth Advisory Board of the National Center for the Prevention of Youth Suicide.
“We’ve had people here that have tried to commit suicide and I want to make it so it doesn’t happen,” said Taylor, acutely aware that in a community the size of Seldovia, “it makes more of an impact.”
The board’s role is to offer high school and college volunteers opportunities to develop and use leadership skills by providing guidance to the national center’s activities. The youth board helps direct the center’s youth programming by raising awareness, using electronic media campaigns and fundraising events supporting the National Center for the Prevention of Youth Suicide. The youth advisory board meets quarterly to review planned projects and discuss those they would like to see implemented. Each youth advisory board member serves one year and is encouraged to reapply for as many as two consecutive terms.
Asked where she gets her inspiration for community service, Taylor pointed to her father, who served in the U.S. Army for 13 years. After the family moved to Seldovia four years ago from the state of Washington, “he was, at first, (Seldovia’s) fire chief and now he’s the police chief. … He’s the guy I look up to,” she said.
Her mother, Tiffany, let her family know about the effort to recruit youth advisory board members after seeing it posted on Facebook by Laurel Hilts who is with Seldovia Village Tribe’s prevention program.
“Taylor said she really wanted to do it and I encouraged her,” said Haller, admitting she was “shocked when I got the email that they only took 20 throughout the country,” one of them Taylor.
Like her daughter, Haller sees this as an opportunity for Taylor to make her own community a better place.
“I’m hoping Taylor can facilitate something here that can help or do something with the prevention program at school to tie this all into the community so we get as much out of it as possible,” said Haller.
Although Taylor plans to pursue an education in the culinary field after she graduates from high school, she also has training as an emergency medical technician on her to-do list, while continuing to serve as a firefighter.
Her advice to other teens interested in community service is based on her own experience.
“Do it. It’s a lot of fun. You learn a lot,” she said. “And most of the time, you work with great people who also want to help. I love it.”
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.