Vantrice Taylor ’04:
Angels and Odysseys
By Karen Hart
Vantrice Taylor is anything but ordinary—some would
even call her an angel.
Long before the petite first-year student from Dorchester, Mass., stepped foot
on the Holy Cross campus last September, she had seen a thousand things and lived
a thousand lives.
Taylor suffers from a chronic condition called interstitial cystitis, which causes
severe and debilitating abdominal pain and has no cure. She lives on a strict
diet to control the problem, but still, she has been to the emergency room more
times than most people go in a lifetime.
“It’s a lifelong story,” Taylor, a premed student, says bluntly. “It’s
not genetic or pathogenic. You just have to get used to it.”
Taylor’s health is just the tip of the iceberg of obstacles she has had
to endure in her short lifetime. Her inner city childhood was a maze of crack
houses, gang hangouts and tough street corners she had to navigate.
According to Taylor, the biggest crack house in Boston was within walking distance
of where she lived.
But the ambitious young woman had two saviors—her intelligence and the
local Boys and Girls Club. Both gave her opportunities many other teens in the
same situation did not have.
Together, they earned Taylor the titles of Boys and Girls Clubs of Massachusetts
Youth of the Year, and the Angel Network Scholar of Massachusetts, as well as
a $25,000 scholarship and the chance to turn her life around.
Taylor is the third youngest child in a family of seven, and life’s circumstances
were not always in her favor. But her mother, and the city of Boston, had some
foresight into saving the future of families like the Taylors. Before she was
born, Taylor’s mother had enrolled her in the city’s Metco Program,
a state-funded, voluntary desegregation program, where inner city children are
bused to suburban schools. Taylor, and several of her siblings, attended public
school in Scituate, a town just 16 miles from Boston on the Massachusetts seacoast.
There, despite ongoing health problems and a tiresome schedule of early morning
and late afternoon buses, Taylor excelled in school and began to dream of becoming
“I’ve wanted to go to medical school since I was five,” Taylor
says. “That’s the ultimate way to help somebody. That’s my
thing—that’s what I’m good at. And it’s no fun being
sick—I know personally.”
The distance between her home and school made it difficult for Taylor to participate
in school functions, however, so instead, much of her extracurricular activities
centered around the Boys and Girls Club near her home.
“I’ve been going to the club every day since I was 7 years old,” Taylor
says. “It’s a 30-year-old club—it’s like a family. My
mom didn’t want us out on the streets or sitting home watching TV, so I
would be there every day. I started with swim lessons.”
Like most kids, though, when Taylor hit her early teens, she began to rebel.
“I was always a good kid, but I started having a hard time and having some
trouble during eighth grade,” Taylor says.
Her rebellion was powerful enough to draw her away from her beloved Boys and
Girls Club for nearly a year. She didn’t return until halfway through her
freshman year in high school, which would prove to be a turning point in her
“Once you join the club, you’re in the club for life. I’ll
always go back,” Taylor says.
The club gave her a job as a tutor in its Teen Mentoring program, and she worked
with neighborhood kids, teaching them to read and helping them with their math
skills. Each year the club held a college day for its members—to participate,
members had to be drug and alcohol free and be willing to explore the idea of
higher education. Taylor began to see the benefits of her efforts. She participated
in the college touring program and visited schools all over the East, including
Holy Cross. During her junior year in high school, the club named her its member
Youth of the Year—and then, to her own surprise, gave her the same honor
during her senior year in high school.
“They picked me two years in a row. That’s the biggest honor—to
be named just once was a blessing,” Taylor says. “They gave me my
first real job, and with the trips, the programs, the community service—my
life has changed for the best because of the club.”