Scholarship recipient tells story of Honduras orphanage and care center

Nov 02, 2014

For Taylor Harrison ’15, a recipient of North Central College’s Mironda K. Heston Scholarship of Public Service, the cliché “a picture is worth a thousand words” rings true.

Following a service trip her junior year to Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos (NPH), a nonprofit orphanage and care center in Honduras, Harrison immediately fell in love with her surroundings. Her strong connection with the people and culture at NPH compelled her to return to Honduras in hopes of shedding new light on the organization. Harrison realized her best option for presenting NPH to the wider world was to tap into her longstanding passion for photography and view NPH behind the lens of a camera.  

Receiving the Heston Scholarship became Harrison’s vital ticket back. Administered by the College's Leadership, Ethics and Values program, the scholarship is awarded annually to one or more North Central College students and funds their work in a human rights and service capacity at home or abroad. It honors Mironda Heston, a 2002 graduate of the College, who died from an illness contracted in Haiti while working to improve health care. Harrison’s proposal to create a photojournalism book to showcase and increase awareness about NPH and its sponsorship program was fully funded by the scholarship.

“I fell in love with the fact that (NPH) is not just an orphanage,” says Harrison, an English writing major and history minor. Educational programs, religious and medical services, as well as a sustainable living environment are among the many resources it provides. “I never would have expected all this in the middle of Honduras. It makes you wonder what would happen if we implemented any of these services here with kids who are homeless in our own country.”

After completing a summer internship that allowed her to work closely with regional NPH managers in Chicago, Harrison made her second trip to Honduras with specific goals in mind. “The idea for my project was that it wouldn’t be just a scrapbook, but more like a photo essay,” Harrison explains. “I’m trying to focus on specific themes and how to present NPH to the outside world.” The overall theme she settled on portrays NPH as “not your average family.” It explores society’s idea of “home and family” and that a conventional family isn’t the only option.

Compared to previous programs and services developed through the Heston Scholarship, Harrison’s photo book is the first Heston project with the ability to be physically brought back and shared with the North Central community. Harrison says, “I was a little worried about the long-term sustainability aspect of my project. Compared to other Heston projects that developed services in and for the community, I wasn’t leaving anything tangible. However, the photography and the book are real and sustainable.” Following the presentation of her project to the North Central community, Harrison’s photo essay will be printed as books, and half will be sent back to the center for its use.

A resident of Morton, Ill., Harrison believes the Heston Scholarship is an incredible avenue and opportunity for students pursuing careers in humanitarian aid or service. “It allows you to do a service project and dabble in something you want to do afterward,” she says. “It’s such a unique grant and honors Mironda. This has been my most proud accomplishment in four years.”

In addition to receiving this scholarship, Harrison was named North Central College’s 2014 Lincoln Laureate by vote of the faculty and was honored in a special award ceremony hosted by Gov. Pat Quinn Nov. 1 in Springfield. The award recognizes outstanding college seniors at four-year degree-granting institutions in Illinois.

Harrison is part of North Central’s College Scholars Honors Program and has presented her creative and scholarly work at national conferences. On campus, she has served as president of the English honors society, co-editor the student publication The Kindling, as an Orientation Leader, First-Year Mentor, academic life chair and liaison for the Student Governing Association, and member of Focus, a student-led worship group. A skilled speaker and writer, Harrison is committed to social justice on a global scale and to the power of the arts to effect change.

By Jordan Johnson ’15, majoring in English/journalism and interactive media studies