Katrina Tagget, a beloved RCPD student and mentor who passed away in September 2008, is memorialized by the caring contributions of the first Katrina Tagget Fellow, Jason Baumhover, in her name. His fellowship through the RCPD, which will begin this fall, is possible because of the dedication of her family in ensuring that others can remember and help continue the legacy of their perseverant daughter, sister, friend, and granddaughter. Like Katrina, Jason will facilitate a synergistic partnership between the students and the RCPD that culminates in self-awareness, skill development, and a sense of contribution.
Katrina ("Kara") Tagget planned to graduate summa cum laude in the spring of 2009 with a degree in Public Administration and Public Policy and a specialization in Political Economy. This 2005 graduate and Honor Roll student from Maryland's Centennial High School consecutively remained on the Dean's List every semester since the spring of her freshman year. Regarded at the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities for her service to others, careful planning, and pleasant demeanor, she had received the Outstanding Mentor award for two consecutive years, and believed that helping other students was one of the most fulfilling activities she participated in during her university years. "It's not just me mentoring them; we develop a relationship and a friendship. They need my help, but at the same time, I'm helping myself and learning more about my strengths and weaknesses," she once stated.
The Katrina Tagget Memorial Foundation seeks to keep her spirit of giving alive, by awarding the Katrina Tagget Fellowship, an endowed scholarship within the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities to continue her service and academic excellence, and promote awareness of mental health issues and suicide prevention. Her specialist, Valerie Nilson, believes that there are "certain students you just take home in your heart...she was that one." She observes that Katrina's determination in achievement is present in her family's admirable and fast action in establishing an endowment within months after her passing. Referring to the memorial bake sale that occurred at a Spartan football game only weeks after her death, Nilson remarked with astonishment that it continues to be "impressive [to see] how much they have wanted to benefit other students." Katrina's family and friends continued raising money through the Katrina Kookie Exchange on her birthday and the Kara Tagget Open in Marriottsville, Maryland. Plans to participate in the annual Out of the Darkness Walks hosted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in the fall are also listed on her website, katrinatagget.org. Reflecting on the strength her family has shown in the face of such a devastating tragedy, Psychiatric Disabilities Specialist John Pedraza said, "They want to turn this into a positive experience to help other people and prevent it from happening again...that's where the courage comes in."
Jason understands the Tagget family's need to honor her spirit, and remembers her fondly. "She made a substantial impression on countless people and forever became a character in their [life] story." Having previously served as a teacher's assistant for a Communication Arts and Sciences class, and continuing to volunteer as an English tutor for international students, he has already displayed a passion for mentoring that is reminiscent of Katrina's love for helping others. Both students "have wonderful hearts," says Nilson, and are "scholars with their own goals, and others in mind." It is precisely because of this dedication and persistence in obtaining excellence that Pedraza believes "both have positively touched others in good ways. People respect and appreciate that."
Jason's personable demeanor and dedication to service will positively influence students struggling with learning disabilities to succeed academically. His encouragement will create a cycle of service as they, in turn, begin volunteering to impact others, and together, their activities will reflect the spirit and character of Katrina. The caring actions and attitudes of her family in continuing to promote her love of mentorship and teaching others about suicide prevention will further her impact for years to come.
(Katrina's brother Blake, father David, and mother Sara pose with Jason Baumhover, the first Tagget fellow, and his grandmother Sue Brown.)