Kanna (Taylor) Rook left Truman with more than a degree.
“My service-oriented activities at Truman greatly helped me to become who I am today,” she said.
During her time on campus, Rook (’09) was active in several organizations and spearheaded service events through Phi Sigma Pi and Lambda Pi Eta. Some of the dozen or so that she planned as a student included raising awareness for a group that helps abused children in Africa, and organizing a supply drive for the Adair County Humane Society.
While those accomplishments are admirable, it took unfortunate family news to truly unleash Rook’s passion for serving others. Her father, Bob Taylor, was diagnosed with brain cancer in August 2010. Despite having no previous firsthand exposure to the disease, Rook immediately jumped into action. She made use of her experience as a public communication major and volunteered as the public relations/marketing chair for her local Relay For Life event.
The signature event for the American Cancer Society, Relay For Life is the largest fundraising effort in the world. In a typical event, organized teams camp out around a track and take turns walking throughout the night. Games and activities provide entertainment and the entire event strives to build a family-friendly atmosphere in the community. Last year, more than 6,000 events brought in $400 million to the ACS.
“It touches each individual participant in an intimate, emotional and inspiring way,” Rook said. “It gives those who have won the battle against cancer, or those who have lost someone they love to cancer, a way to fight back against this terrible disease.”
In support of her father, Rook had her own Relay For Life team in place by the summer of 2011, and has personally participated every year since his diagnosis. In four years, her team has raised nearly $25,000. Unfortunately, her father has not been there for each of the events. Bob passed away in December 2011, but Rook continues to field a team each year.
Instead of being angry and disheartened at losing her father, Rook has turned tragedy into her calling. In 2012, she took a community manager position with the ACS and now oversees Relay For Life events in five counties. Working out of her home in O’Fallon, Mo., the job entails odd hours, a tremendous amount of travel and countless meetings with individuals in each community she serves, but Rook is able to find happiness in what she does.
“I have met so many incredible people through my job, both survivors and caregivers alike, who have won and lost, and they are all inspiring in their own way. It’s extremely motivating and rewarding,” she said.
All of her hard work has paid off, especially for the ACS. As a community manager, in 2014, Rook was responsible for helping raise more than $325,000 through the five Relay For Life events she coordinated. Including participating with her own team in St. Charles, Mo., and covering an extra event as a community manager, she had a hand in seven Relays last year, which brought her total to roughly $368,000 raised for the American Cancer Society in 2014.
Some of Rook’s most important contributions cannot be measured in dollars alone. Her personal loss is something she uses to connect with and help others.
“I can instantly relate to so many of my volunteers for that reason,” she said. “They reach out to me, not only because I work for the American Cancer Society, but because they know of my personal experience of going through it with my dad.”
This July will mark the fifth year in a row Rook’s team, Bobby’s Big Shots, will take to the track in the St. Charles Relay For Life in honor of her father.
“I do it all in honor of him, and to remember him,” Rook said. “There is nothing more satisfying than getting not only all of my friends and family together, but his friends as well, to celebrate his life and remember the hard battle he lost. He was my motivation when I started Relaying four years ago, and he is still my motivation now.”
Since she was a little girl, Jennifer (Taylor) Williams (’96) has been infatuated with horses. Between riding lessons and the prospect of someday owning her own horse, she was hooked. Her passion for horses has since grown through her work with nonprofit equine rescues.
Williams is the co-founder of two separate horse rescues in Texas, Lone Star Equine Rescue and Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society, and currently serves as the executive director of the latter. She works with volunteers, donors, law enforcement officials and horse professionals on a day-to-day basis to resolve horse-neglect situations.
“I remember being a kid and thinking when I was grown I would buy horses at auction that no one wanted, train them, and then find them new people. So, I think rescue was in my blood before I even knew rescues existed,” Williams said.
Since Bluebonnet’s inception in 2005, Williams has helped save more than 750 horses and seen more than 600 adopted. Additionally, she understands that in order to be successful there is more to rescue work than saving animals.
“You need passion to carry you through the times that are emotionally draining, but a nonprofit is still a business, and you need to run it like one,” Williams said. “It’s one of the reasons I’ve been able to be involved in rescue for 18 years.”
As part of her position, Williams is in charge of many administrative duties, including training and managing volunteers, fundraising, supervising investigations, soliciting new foster homes and writing articles about the rescue. Although there are occasionally difficult decisions involved with abused horse cases, Williams promises that her positive experiences far outweigh the negative.
“One of my favorite stories involves one of my foster horses and an adorable little girl. A man applied to adopt her for his granddaughter and brought the girl to meet her. I gave her a mini-riding lesson on the mare and she just lit up,” Williams said. “That was love, and it was awesome to play a small part in making it happen.”
After getting her degree in psychology from Truman, Williams ultimately pursued her master’s and Ph.D. in ethology, or animal behavior, from Texas A&M University. She writes articles for horse magazines and other local general interest publications, and teaches an equine behavior class for an online university. Williams also has been recognized by American Horse Publications and the Texas Veterinary Medical Association.
Williams lives in Lorena, Texas, with her husband, daughter and six horses of her own. She plans to continue her equine rescue work by expanding Bluebonnet’s programs and influence.
“We will do everything we can to make the world a better place for horses,” Williams said.
From chores to hot meals, home can mean a variety of things. This stable environment can foster relationships and inspire bright futures. As the parents of a very distinctive home, Jeremy Mapp (’10, ’12) and Rachel (Richardson) Mapp (’10) demonstrate a commitment and love for their community.
Started in 2006, Joe’s Place, or JP, is a program through the Maplewood Richmond Heights School District in Maplewood, Mo. It provides homeless teenage boys in the area a supportive home environment while encouraging a positive future. After a short interview process last year, Jeremy and Rachel were selected as the new house parents of JP.
“We were quickly attracted to JP, which was a big part of why I ended up accepting a teaching position in the school district,” Jeremy said.
Between Sunday evening and Friday afternoon, the Mapps serve as parents to four boys staying in the house. They address social and emotional issues and provide academic support, in addition to managing the physical upkeep of the house. Jeremy and Rachel also help with other aspects of the program by attending promotional events and coordinating volunteer and donation efforts.
“We are parents and are often considered the face of the organization,” Jeremy said.
During their first year, the Mapps have enjoyed meals, sports, holidays, birthdays and graduation celebrations with their unique family. In addition, they help instill values and shape life decisions on college, careers and relationships. Although there are challenging moments raising teenagers, the couple enjoys getting to know each of the boys on a personal level.
“Within our first week as house parents, we welcomed a new member to the JP family. One of the students graduated last year, so we had an opening for another student who moved in during the beginning of school,” Jeremy said. “We had a bonfire and basketball ritual, which was a great first experience for all of us.”
The Mapps balance their responsibilities at Joe’s Place between separate full-time jobs. Jeremy teaches sixth grade math at Maplewood Richmond Heights Elementary School, while Rachel, who earned a master’s degree from Maryville University in 2012, is a community support specialist at Bridges Community Support Service and a career development instructor at the International Institute of St. Louis. They also help the community in other ways, including assisting local shelters during the holidays.
“We enjoy giving back to the community because that’s what people are supposed to do,” Rachel said.
During their time at Truman, the Mapps were active both in the campus and surrounding communities. The couple took advantage of service opportunities through their respective organizations and participated in campus-wide events such as the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service and the Big Event. Jeremy specifically was involved with Residence Life and the Multicultural Affairs Center, holding a number of positions from student advisor to program coordinator. He attributes many of his personal skills to these valuable on-campus opportunities.
“I learned so much from all of my experiences in the Multicultural Affairs Center and Residence Life.All of my work with [Truman] students has prepared me to meet the needs of my students on a more individualized basis,” Jeremy said. “My experiences with emergency and mental health situations have proven to be very helpful as I work with my students at school and especially on a more personal level at JP.”
Currently, the Mapps plan to continue their tenure with Joe’s Place. They remain committed to serving in the community through their work and other volunteer opportunities.
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With the bang of the gavel, Sen. Wally Horn (’58, ’62) began his 43rd consecutive session in the Iowa Legislature this January, officially making him the state’s longest-serving legislator.
Horn, who has served his district as a state senator for more than 30 years, got a taste of the public life at a young age. When he was a child, his father successfully ran for county sheriff. This familiarized Horn with elections and how they worked, opening up the possibility of public office.
In 1952, he enrolled at Truman on the recommendation of a high school coach. At Truman, Horn was an All-American college student. He played basketball, joined Phi Sigma Epsilon fraternity and was on track to graduate with a degree in teaching.
“Some of the most memorable times were playing basketball, fraternity life and meeting people who would become lifelong friends,” he said.
That all changed when Horn suddenly came down with appendicitis, which forced him to drop out of that semester’s classes. While recovering, he was drafted into the Army. Horn served in the Bloody Red One tank battalion, which was responsible for patrolling the Germany-Czechoslovakian border. Upon completion of his service in 1955, he returned to the University to finish his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education.
After graduating Horn had a long career in education. He taught and coached in three school districts in Iowa, where he was very involved in his local teachers organizations. In 1972, while serving as president of one of these organizations, a reapportionment, or redefining of districts, in the Iowa Legislature yielded an open seat in the House of Representatives. Because of his strong commitment to bettering education, Horn decided to run for the seat.
“I thought I could do more good for education in the legislature,” he said.
Horn won the election, beginning his decade as a representative and 33 years as a senator.
Serving in the legislature, he quickly found the lessons he learned while teaching helped prepare him for the job. He learned having goals, setting objectives, planning and always being mindful of the budget were all applicable to public policy. Most importantly, studying education taught him how to learn.
“Learning how to learn is a skill I obtained in college and continue to use today,” he said.
It is clear that Horn’s passion for public service has been passed down to his students. Many of his former pupils have run for office or have become public servants. While he is proud of his legacy, he always leaves his students with the same advice.
“Be prepared to have no time to yourself and not make much money, but love every minute of it,” Horn said. “Be prepared to give more than you receive.”
Horn is considering retirement at the completion of his tenth term in 2017, at age 85. After 40 years he still considers each day a privilege.
“Helping others is what I love to do,” he said. “I have not really worked a day in my life because of how much I enjoy what I do.”