Something students recognize right away about Kurly Taylor, a college advisor at Riverview Gardens Senior High School, is that he sees them for who they are, said senior Michael Crymes.
“One of things that I most admire about Mr. Taylor is that he knows everyone’s names,” Crymes said. “That means a lot. He takes the time out of his day to get to know us. It’s not just a job for him. It’s more like a passion to do what’s best for us and to help us.”
Taylor, a University of Missouri Kansas City graduate, is a part of the Missouri College Advising Corps (MCAC), which is a two-year program for recent college graduates who want to make a difference and help students with college access programs.
As a high school student himself, Taylor had a MCAC advisor who he still keeps in contact with and who pushed him in the counseling direction. Being at Riverview Gardens, he said the thing that initially surprised him the most about being a counselor was what students go through on a daily basis.
“I grew up in bubble, in a privileged setting,” Taylor said. “Both of my parents have advanced degrees and had good jobs. A lot of things my students had to go through, I didn’t have to go through until maybe now.”
A lot of his students work until past midnight, Taylor said, and they provide for siblings or other family members. And many of them don’t have parents in the picture, so they don’t have someone pushing them every day. One of his passions is bridging the inequities in education. He said he goes above and beyond to make sure his families are getting access to financial aid and other resources.
“I won’t do it for them, but I will be in the passenger seat while they’re driving,” Taylor said.
It’s Taylor’s overall mindset that makes him different, Crymes said.
“He’s more like ‘I’m a person, you’re a person. You learn from me and I learn from you,’” Crymes said. “I feel like a lot of kids relate to that because a lot of kids here have problems with authority. He’s not soft. It’s a gentle push and a shove.”
Taylor is in his last year at Riverview, and he said it’s bittersweet. He hopes to attend graduate school and eventually land a position in academic advising or working in public policy at the state or federal level. Bridging inequities in education is ultimately the type of work that he wants to do, he said.
“St. Louis is very divisive city, and it’s always been that way,” Taylor said. “By zip code, you have a better education.”
He would love to help establish policies that give students in underserved communities the same opportunities as students in more affluent school districts. He believes the key to do this is having a sense of empathy.
“In government, I see that we don’t often have opportunities for people who can’t meet their basic needs,” he said. “We need to meet them where they are.”
Crymes said he has not had a lot of black male teachers.
“And just seeing another person around our age group being successful and doing the things that he wants is just like, ‘I can be that,’” Crymes said. “It gives us hope that there’s something more to Riverview.”
It makes it even better that Taylor works with all students in the building, Crymes said.
“I love having talks with him because he tries his best to relate to everyone,” Crymes said. “Just because we’re black, we’re not all the same. He gets people who have rough childhoods; people who have okay childhoods. He’s an all-around handyman when it comes to relating to everyone.”