As a personification of humanitarianism, Kaylee Ferguson ‘23 lights the way by giving back what she’s been given as a Mission Ambassador, RA, Christian, and volunteer.

Woman smiles in front of MSJ Lion logo

At the height of the pandemic, Kaylee Ferguson graduated high school. And by the time she received her diploma in May 2020, she already had college credit under her belt as well, having taken several university-level courses as a high school student. It’s no surprise, then, that she was offered a position as a Mission Ambassador for the Mount the summer before she even began her undergraduate degree on a pre-physical therapy track with a Biomedical Science major. But this offer wasn’t the only thing that encouraged Kaylee to come to the Mount.

Kaylee’s journey to the Mount and this access to devoted guides was not without its difficulties, however. The pandemic struck at a turning point in Kaylee’s life and, as it did for most, sowed trepidation and unease into her perception of her own future.

She also didn’t know anyone at the Mount, and felt apprehensive about moving two hours away from home to attend school. What helped her get through this, though, was her eagerness to express her Christian perspectives and experiences to others so as to develop meaningful relationships with them and work her way into the community.

Beth Murray, Kaylee’s academic advisor, is one such member of the community with whom she made a connection. A perfect mentor for someone as gifted as Kaylee, Beth keeps her advisee energized and notified of openings in the field.

“Her passion for science,” Kaylee credits her advisor, “and watching students succeed was incredibly motivating and reassuring as a new student to the Mount Community. Dr. Murray encouraged me to chase down every opportunity to make me a competitive applicant and student and was there to help me every step of the way.”

Epitomizing Philanthropy

This reassurance equipped Kaylee with the means to be able to help others as an RA. Having gone through the anxiety of starting college, she wanted to use her position as an RA to prevent others from enduring the same thing. To do this, she contributed to a more comfortable and easygoing environment in the residence hall for those who became a bit more reticent while social distancing. By ensuring that she was accessible to students to answer any questions, Kaylee could thwart and combat the effects of isolation, and keep freshmen from getting overwhelmed or confused.

Almost therapeutically, Kaylee encourages relationship-building once residents get comfortable in the Mount environment. Between the Halloween Carnival, the Valentine’s Day candy grams, and other programs that she has designed, Kaylee has created a healthy and edifying dorm experience for her fellow students.

But this doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of Kaylee’s accomplishments.

In the summer of 2021, for instance, a family friend informed her of an opportunity to work as a cabin counselor at Stepping Stones Inc., a nonprofit that offers educational and recreational programs to people with disabilities. Kaylee eagerly accepted not only for the experience, which contributes to a more well-rounded career in physical therapy, but also because of her desire to serve those who need the most care.

“Whether it was through taking care of the participants’ personal care needs, guiding them in activities, supervising their recreation times, learning about their passions in life, or just hearing them tell a good story, I felt as though I was in the place I was meant to be,” Kaylee recounts. “Though it wasn’t always easy, I walked away from the experience feeling like those participants helped me more than I ever helped them as they showed me a new outlook on life and how to see the bright side in any situation!”

By the end of the summer at Stepping Stones, a participant who had hated the camp initially and felt homesick began smiling every day with Kaylee as counselor.

“I don’t believe I did anything special,” she says, “but it is a moving story that reminds me that sometimes a simple smile and welcoming attitude can go a long way.”

In addition to this work, Kaylee was accepted into an internship with an undergraduate research program at Wood Hudson Cancer Research Laboratory in Newport, Kentucky. Learning primarily about the mechanics of the research process, she capped off her internship with her own research proposal about auxiliary ways ovarian cancer could be detected in patients who have polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS.

Even this, however, does not comprise the extent of her volunteering. Kaylee, as a matter of fact, spent one of her spring breaks in Kentucky with the Christian Appalachian Project to help repair houses for impoverished families in the Appalachian area. Coming from an impoverished area herself, Kaylee once again reflects her determination to utilize her own confrontations with hardship and deprivation as fuel for her own humanitarianism. It is a charity of sympathy—because she lived it herself, she refuses to allow others to have to go through it too.

In Photo: Kaylee helps two other workers begin building a two-bedroom addition to a house

During her break, Kaylee, along with a few other volunteers and two experienced workers, successfully built a two-bedroom addition to a house that enabled a family to maintain custody of their children so that they didn’t have to go to foster care.

“It was incredibly difficult work,” Kaylee says about the construction aspect, “...but it was so worth it! Being surrounded by like-minded people of the same faith was very refreshing. I also walked away from the experience with a new confidence in my ability to impact the lives of others by just being myself.”

Togetherness in the Extracurricular

Even beyond these things, Kaylee is part of a number of extracurricular activities and on-campus clubs, which each, in their own ways, fortify her pursuit of lasting relationships at the Mount.

A member of Lions for Life since she came to the Mount, for instance, Kaylee is part of a group that educates and advocates for individuals during all stages of life. Currently, the club is discussing how best to combat food insecurity and homelessness—clearly an inclination characteristic of Kaylee.

“I have a passion,” she says, “for advocating for those who can’t advocate for themselves, so hearing about a club that does just that, I knew I had to join!”

In Photo: Kaylee and Michelle Arnold at Bible study

Kaylee also builds community when leading Bible study. With this year having record attendance, thanks to many of the new and passionate freshmen, the discussion group is growing. In this club, participants learn biblical history and, of course, moral truisms that they can apply to their own lives—a practice that can be endlessly uplifting. A tried-and-true method of bringing people together, Bible study, especially for Kaylee, breeds a sense of familiarity among readers.

What’s more, Kaylee even spoke at a national conference for catholic colleges and universities, despite possessing a fear of public speaking. Having spoken in the Prayers for Overcoming Racism Zoom calls, Kaylee was nominated as a student representative at the national conference over Zoom to discuss the Mount’s efforts to combat social injustice. Her presence there proved to be invaluable since she shared a student’s perspective on the issue—insight that she was encouraged to provide by the Mission Integration Office, who supported her in her triumph over public speaking anxiety.

A Future of Promise and Continued Altruism

Kaylee plans to graduate in May of 2023, and the strides she’s already made personally, interpersonally, and in her field are far-reaching and praiseworthy.  

There is so much that lies in her future, and with the Mission Mug Award, Excellence in Leadership Award, and Outstanding RA of the Year awards she won in 2022, as well as the Mount Mission Award in 2021, Kaylee is not bereft of proof of her qualifications and uniqueness as a leader. And with the amount the Mount has given her, she has given back tenfold—to the campus, the community, and all those she has touched and inspired.

“I was welcomed with open arms and have felt the compassion of those faculty in every stage of my life as a student here at MSJ,” Kaylee says. “I have been encouraged to face my fears and conquer any obstacle in my way. I have also built lasting relationships with other students on campus who have the same drive and ambition that I do to make our world a better place, one step at a time!”

Pre-Professional Studies Physical Therapy Track: Learn More

Pre-professional studies at Mount St. Joseph University are courses of study prepared by expert faculty members that supplement your existing major and better prepare you for a career as a health professional.

The Mount’s pre-physical therapy area of study prepares you well for a three-year doctor of physical therapy program.

Visit our Pre-Physical Therapist page to learn more about this offering to prepare you for graduate school!