Denise and Tony Dworznicki wanted to find the perfect way to honor the memory of their daughter Taylor, who passed away in 2016. Taylor was 22 years old and her parents describe her as someone who demonstrated her love for others through example and gave her time to helping people in need.
“Taylor was a good soul, full of life, and giving,” said her mother, Denise. “She would give her last dollar to someone on the street and was everyone’s cheerleader.”
Her encouraging nature and willingness to help others makes the Taylor Jude Dworznicki Scholarship Endowment the perfect way to remember and carry on Taylor’s name for decades to come. The endowment will support juniors and seniors majoring in social work who want to help individuals facing the challenge of mental illness.
In 2018, the first scholarship was given to senior Toni Pearce, ’19. She graduated in 2019 and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in social work at NC State and hopes to work with children and families experiencing homelessness within Wake County.
“I was grateful when I found out I received the scholarship, but it wasn’t until I met Denise and Tony that I truly understood the magnitude of their gift and their decision to give it to a social work student,” said Pearce. “They allowed their daughter’s giving spirit to live on through them and that honestly changed my life. Without their support, I might not have graduated at all.”
The Dworznickis were able to meet Pearce in 2018 at the Scholarship Dinner. The dinner pairs scholarship donors and their students, allowing students the opportunity to say thank you while the donors learn more about the individuals they are supporting.
“It was good to meet Toni at the dinner and let her know how grateful and appreciative we were of what she was learning at Meredith,” said Tony. “It was important for us to tell her about Taylor, while also learning about her and her goals and dreams for the future. She is really going to make a difference in someone else’s life.”
Pearce said talking with the Dworznickis face to face reminded her of the reason she decided to become a social worker.
“The Dworznickis radiate light and their gift was so much more than a monetary contribution. I felt inspired by them and their story. Meeting them played a large role in shaping who I am as a social worker now. I want to pay it forward one day and be that support for other people,” said Pearce.
Denise, a record specialist in the Office of the Registrar, has worked at Meredith for 10 years and believes you should support where you work. She loves that Meredith empowers young women.
“Taylor would want to help with tuition for a student who would benefit and the idea of it going towards a social work major we know would make her happy,” said Denise. “Taylor appreciated what Meredith stood for and we knew this was a perfect gift that enabled us to make something positive out of a tragedy.”
While working with the College’s Institutional Advancement office on the details of the gift, the Dworznickis learned that Tony’s company, Verizon, would match giving to non-profit organizations enabling them to give more than they originally envisioned. In addition, the Dworznickis decided to add an estate gift as a way to give additional funds in memory of Taylor.
“Our Taylor was not only beautiful on the outside, but also on the inside. Her beautiful heart and soul showed, through example, how to love unconditionally. She gave generously of her time and limited resources no matter the circumstances,” said Denise. “Taylor never failed to brighten a room with her smile and infectious laugh. We know she would be pleased to be remembered in this way.”