Staff Profile: Taylor Sigh

Taylor Sligh joined RAFI as the Come to the Table Program Associate in August 2023. As part of the Come to the Table team, she coordinates event logistics and conducts communication and outreach to faith communities and food ministries, drawing on her experience in community building and a long-standing dedication to service-oriented leadership.

Taylor grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, describing herself as a quiet child who loved anything artsy or creative. In elementary school, she participated in an immersion program where math and science classes were taught in Spanish and continued becoming fluent in the language all the way through college. 

From a young age, Taylor’s parents and other mentors helped her cultivate values of leadership, love of learning, and service to others. “I grew up big in faith,” she says, “and I feel like I was always instilled in the common principle of trying to do no harm, live your life, and encourage other people to do the same, helping other people when you can, and also having gratitude for where you are when you’re there,” Taylor recalls being particularly influenced by her grandmother, who emphasized values like self-motivation, self-worth, and accumulating as much knowledge as possible.

In high school, Taylor participated in the Air Force Junior ROTC program. During her senior year, she rose to the level of cadet commander, under the mentorship of her instructor, Lt. Col. Dibert. “He really taught me a lot about integrity in the workplace and being able to work with a diverse group of people and lead with empathy, and I’m really appreciative of that perspective. Even at such a young age with really low stakes, I think it set a lot of the foundation for the way I approach things that I’m a part of.”

A first-generation college student, Taylor studied communication and public relations at Wingate University, a liberal arts university outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. She became actively involved on campus as an orientation leader, teaching assistant, and peer mentor to other first-generation students. “I remember college, as probably many people do, as a time of self-discovery, so I just tried to be a part of as many things as I possibly could that seemed to be good causes. For me, that helped to ground me in understanding how I can be of bigger service to other people.” Taylor was an active member of the Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. where she felt especially influenced by her advisor, Demetria Smith. Taylor appreciated the way Demetria practiced radical acceptance, embracing and encouraging authenticity in others. It was Demetria who encouraged Taylor to successfully run for senior leadership positions within the sorority and its international board. 

Attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic, Taylor felt driven to cultivate and re-center herself in the community that she felt like she had missed out on during social distancing. Following the civil unrest and renewed calls for racial justice during the summer of 2020, Taylor witnessed a lot of misunderstanding and confusion about the movement among her peers at Wingate, a predominantly white institution. “I felt like there were a lot of people who just didn’t understand what racial inequity was, just because it wasn’t their reality.” To address this, Taylor proposed an initiative called “We Are Wingate Week” that would bring together student organizations from across campus to promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. She applied for funding from the university’s Board of Visitors and ended up being awarded the largest grant in the program’s history to make the project a reality. Working with the Black Student Union, the Muslim Student Association, the Multicultural Director, and the school’s international offices, Taylor and her partners successfully put together a weeklong schedule of events to educate on and celebrate diversity on campus.

Taylor experienced her first introduction to food justice work during this period, while volunteering as a Spanish interpreter for a meal distribution program at a church near campus. She recalls feeling inspired by seeing how “community can help community.” After graduating, she went on to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA member at NC State University, where she helped oversee the on-campus food pantry. Her role involved engaging with on-campus and community partners to raise awareness, generate donations, and break the stigma surrounding food insecurity. She started a lunch-and-learn advocate program to help bring a human face to education on food insecurity, inviting those who didn’t mind sharing their stories to come speak about their experiences using the pantry. 

Taylor enjoyed learning how to operate a food security program at the intersection of nonprofit work and higher education. “I learned a lot about what it means to truly do things with care.” Her colleagues at the pantry taught her much about how to be “intentional about how things affect the people that you’re serving, and including them in finding solutions to the problems that they face.” The experience made her think deeply about “things to look for and to listen to, how to advocate for people and not being a voice for them but being more like a megaphone for them. I think I learned a lot about what that looks like.”

Taylor first learned about RAFI after inviting a former RAFI staff member to speak about food justice and racial inequity at a panel at the food pantry for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Now on the Come to the Table team, Taylor most enjoys engaging with farmers, clergy and lay leaders, and faith community members on the ground, listening to their stories and perspectives, and learning how best to support their food ministries based on their needs and experiences. She feels inspired by the fact that there are so many people out there doing the hard work to advocate for food justice. 

When asked about what drives her, Taylor recalls that her colleagues at the food pantry would often say that their ultimate goal was “to not to have to operate anymore” — to achieve a food system where the needs of everyone in the community were being met. “I really think that I’m motivated by the fact that there are still people who rely on us to be here and present and operating and helping find solutions to these issues, and I think as long as there is a problem to address, that’s what keeps me invested in wanting to work alongside community members.”

Outside of work, Taylor continues to hold a love for learning languages, and is currently teaching herself Italian and Portuguese. She also enjoys cooking and creative writing.

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