by Laurie Laker ’12
“Education was always very, very important to me and my parents,” says Jackie Taylor, former counselor at the Boettcher Health Center, home to the student health services, counseling center, and psychological services at Colorado College.
Taylor, who is now retired, worked at Boettcher (now called the Student Health Center) for 19 years as a counselor, and was one of the first women of color to counsel CC students at the center. Her background in education set the tone for her approach to a career in counseling and social work — one that took her to a variety places across the U.S., winding up in Colorado Springs where she remains today.
Growing up in rural South Carolina in the small town of Union, Taylor’s teacher mother and her businessman father taught her the importance of education from an early age. Schooling at the time, though, was vastly different from what it is today.
“It was a totally segregated schooling environment from elementary school through high school, and because of that the expectations and opportunities were different for us,” she says.
“With segregation being what it was,” she continues, “there weren’t many careers that people of color could go into. The majority of my family were teachers. We had several social workers, including me.”
Taylor’s brothers took a different path as well. “My older brother, James Randolph Jeter, ran his own IT business before he passed away and my younger brother, Howard F. Jeter, was the U.S. ambassador to both Botswana and Nigeria,” she adds.
Taylor attended the historically black university North Carolina A&T State University, majoring in sociology and minoring in psychology. She returned to school to get her Master’s in Social Work from the University of Denver in 1982.
After graduating from college in 1967, Taylor moved to Tampa, Florida, with her husband, an Air Force officer, to work for Project Head Start. Project Head Start is a federal program that promotes the school readiness of young children from low-income families via agencies and groups in the local communities. Project Head Start “runs in her family” — her mother worked for the Bedford-Stuyvesant branch of Head Start in Brooklyn, New York.
“My work in Tampa, Florida, was primarily with Spanish-speaking families and their children,” she explains. “The Head Start work was challenging and rewarding, as the children had many difficulties in their lives.”
There are points in everyone’s life where help is vital. For Taylor, the loss of her parents at a young age — she was 22 and 23 when they each died — is such a point. “I can relate to a lot of students’ grief and depression resulting from the loss of a parent, especially at such a young age,” she explains.
Taylor married Fred Taylor upon graduation from college, and moving for the Air Force became a part of my life. They spent time in New Hampshire and New Jersey before arriving in Colorado Springs. Along the way, they had two children, Fred Jr. and Teneshia.
“My first job in town was at the Pikes Peak Mental Health Center, working with residential adolescents — incredibly challenging work, particularly with that age group,” she says. She worked for the Pikes Peak Mental Health Center for 25 years.
Colorado College became a part her life around this time, too. Taylor was asked by Dr. Bill Dove ’69, who worked at the Counseling Center, to apply for an opening. Dove, a clinical psychologist, is now director of the Colorado College Counseling Center.
“I think I was fortunate to be chosen, particularly at the time when the staff was smaller than it is today. There were only two or three counselors at Boettcher, and none of us were full-time solely at CC.” Taylor, for instance, worked with special-needs students in Harrison School District 2 in Colorado Springs four days a week, and was at CC on Tuesdays and in the evenings. She did this for 19 years, helping generations of students across the whole community.
Arriving at CC when she did, Taylor experienced a college in transition. The college’s first female president Kathryn Mohrman, and Dr. Judith Reynolds ’71, then medical director of Boettcher Health Center, were instrumental in growing the resources for mental health, and discussions were opening up about the topic. Students were always at the heart of this work.
“What I remember the most about the work was the support systems around campus,” Taylor recalls. “We took a very collaborative approach to counseling, a team approach. There was always a sense of putting students first, and I found that to be really heartwarming about CC.”
“Mike Edmonds, dean of students/vice president for student life, and Rochelle Dickey-Mason ’83, who during my employment was the director of minority student life, were invaluable support systems for me and all students.”
“There really was a sense of family around the college. Whether it be a campus safety officer or the dean of the college, everyone surrounded students who were having difficulties and tried to do their best to help,” she adds.
The stressors of a CC experience affected students in different ways, and that changed over time as generations encountered new challenges and developed new coping mechanisms, Taylor says.
“Students at CC all have very high expectations of themselves. Many of the students had issues fitting in, being successful in time management, or coping with stress. The Block Plan is wonderful, but it really isn’t wonderful for everybody,” Taylor says.
“Anxiety and depression were common among students, and tensions between the haves and have nots grew as the student body changed, as well.”
The way students accessed Taylor and the other resources of the Boettcher Center varied. Sometimes it was a faculty referral, others came from the Dean’s Office. Other times it could be a residential advisor, or a friend, who intervened and recommended counseling.
“If anyone felt that a student was having difficulties, they’d recommend counseling,” Taylor related.
Each of the counselors had, and continue to have, different areas of expertise. Some focused on anxiety and depression, others on time and stress management, others on eating disorders and substance use/abuse.
“The important thing was to help students learn to navigate their environment successfully, to be away from home, to learn and grow in a community, and to achieve the goals that they’d set,” she says. “Who the students saw and were counseled by, depended on a huge number of factors, but we all held those same goals of wanting them to grow as people and give back to others.”
Over 19 years at the college, Taylor saw first-hand the successes and challenges of generations of students. She notes that, “College is a big transition and it is normal for some to be uncomfortable with change.”
“Students of color have their own unique challenges, definitely, but the fact is that 18-, 19-, 20-year-olds all share a lot of the same issues,” she says.
“International students had some difficulty during my time at the college, as did Native American students at adapting to the college community. There wasn’t the representative housing or community options for minority students yet, so that was difficult for them,” she says. “Mike Edmonds, dean of students/vice president for student life, and Rochelle Mason, who during my employment was the director of minority student life, were invaluable support systems for me and all the students.”
Taylor retired from the college in 2007, and her life remains as active and engaged as ever.
“I’m very involved with my church, with local women’s groups. I love to be outdoors, gardening, walking and hiking, taking yoga classes. Hopefully I’ll be able to start some volunteer work soon with seniors and providing services for them.” she says.
Taylor’s family is the center of her life. She is very proud of her family and children. Her son is a retired Air Force full colonel, just like his dad. Her daughter, who lives in Nepal, is pursuing a Ph.D. in Education. She has three grandchildren.
In summary, she says “My experience at Colorado College was very rewarding and most memorable. I am proud to have been a part of this special institution.”