Taylor Miller was looking for Jewish friends and a stronger Jewish identity when she found THE ASSOCIATED Teen Leadership programs just over two years ago. A high school student at downtown’s Baltimore School for the Arts, Taylor says she had to look outside traditional extra-curricular activities to find what she was looking for.
“When I heard about Diller Baltimore Teen Fellows, I wanted to sign up right away, to plan my own service project and travel to Israel,” says Taylor. However, Taylor was only a freshman and Diller is for incoming eleventh graders. She was advised of the Teen Giving Initiative, THE ASSOCIATED teen program focused on fundraising and grant-making education and skill-building.
“I loved the idea of not only raising my own money, but also allocating it,” Taylor says. “I really felt like I was treated like an adult and that everyone’s ideas were taken seriously.”
Taylor had a very successful year in TGI. She applied, was accepted and then enrolled in Diller, a program focused on hands-on community service, the following year.
From both programs, she has made lifelong friendships and found for herself a Jewish world where she feels confident and connected.
“My Diller group is attached at the hip. I always have the best time with them and it was great to go through such a remarkable journey [to Israel] with all of them at my side,” she says.
Taylor also learned about her religion. Though she was raised in a Reform family, Taylor says she has now kept Shabbat, taken part in a Havdallah [Shabbat closing] ceremony and kept kosher for three weeks during her Israel trip. She says the programs’ diversity introduced her to the ways that other types of Jews practice and, while she may not take on everything she learned, she feels she is a stronger Jew.
Inspiring. Thought-provoking. Lasting. These are the three words that Taylor chooses to describe her total experience with THE ASSOCIATED Teen Leadership programs. A senior in high school now, Taylor will leave for college soon. Wherever she goes, she says, “I will remember my friends and our experiences and I will also take the lessons that I learned from these programs: Stand up for what I believe in, question everything and get involved in every way possible!”