Taylor Lewis appears to be a typical, quiet sophomore, but behind his hushed demeanor is a passion for social justice that becomes obvious when he begins to talk about his on-campus involvement.
Lewis knew as soon as he began classes in the Sawyer Business School that he also wanted to get involved on campus. Early in his freshman year he became project leader for the Prison Book Program operated out of the S.O.U.L.S. Community Service and Service Learning Center.
The Prison Book Program was founded in 1972 and has developed into a means for inmates to acquire reading material and to stay connected with their family members.
Learning to read
Volunteers read letters from prisoners, then choose from among donated books to meet their requests, with the dictionary being the most-sought-after book.
"It was rewarding to get a letter from a prisoner who said that she was able to teach herself to read and write from the books that were sent to her the year before," said Lewis.
Program's popularity blossoms
Initially, Lewis was the sole Suffolk University representative, but the program has become very popular with fellow students under his leadership and serving as project leader keeps him in constant contact with many students. He has had to turn away volunteers due to the limited number of available spaces.
Yet even a rejection can sometimes lead friendships, as was the case when Lewis could not include Yosuke Sugishita because of an already full group. That awkward first impression did not stop them from becoming good friends and even led to the formation of a new campus Book Club.
Despite a three-hour round-trip commute from Bridgewater, Lewis, a Finance major and honors student, also is involved in many other activities, including Journey Level 2 and the Collegiate Investors Association. He has volunteered with MassVote and the Greater Boston Food Bank and has conducted for the Beacon Hill Institute.
When asked why he volunteers, he shrugged a little and said: "Because I like it."
Volunteering with the Prison Book Program has caused Lewis to carefully consider his views regarding prison reform. He said that he has learned that helping prisoners "is necessary for a better, more educated society."