Taylor Bradley has always been fascinated with law, politics, and helping others understand their rights.
“I dropped out of high school at 15 and got my GED after I found out I was pregnant,” Bradley said. “My son was my motivator for sure. I felt like I couldn’t make him go to school unless I went back.”
Bradley began attending Kankakee Community College in the Paralegal/Legal Assistant Studies program. She received a scholarship from the KCC Foundation.
Early on, she cried in her advisor’s office. “I was really bad at the program at first,” Bradley said. “Dr. (Kristine) Condon told me we were going to get through it together. She asked how I learned best. I’m a very visual learner so she adapted her teaching style to accommodate me.”
Bradley’s grades shot up, and she branched out in her studies by taking a paralegal special projects course.
“(Judge Michael) Kramer and Dr. Condon knew I was bilingual so they assigned me with two other students to the Democracy Commitment project to create self-represented litigant user guides and instruction videos,” Bradley said. “I used three different translation software (packages), the court house interpretive staff, and my own knowledge to translate the guides into Spanish. I tested them on my Spanish-speaking friends, and they worked.”
In May 2018, Bradley and her partners—Marta “Mattie” Gulyash and Sara Cleveland—received a national honor, the Bernie Ronan Award for Student Action. “They court house didn’t have anything like this before our project, so our work is really meeting a need.”
After graduating from KCC, Bradley completed a paid internship at the Kankakee County Courthouse, and she now works as a paralegal and office manager at Alan F. Smietanksi Law Firm in Bradley.
“There’s so much more to know,” Bradley said. “I think I’ll go back and continue taking classes.
“It’s worth the struggle. If I didn’t have my son, if I didn’t have to struggle through classes, I don’t think I’d be where I am today. I’m now very appreciative of everything because I started with nothing. I had to work for it all and the things I learned along the way are priceless.”