It all started with a book for local teen Taylor Richardson and now her sights are set on Mars, with a couple of stops in between. It's all about the impact for Taylor, when she says “I want to make an impact,” she isn’t just saying it, she’s doing it. The 14-year-old is no stranger to making the impossible happen, and most of it started with Find Where the Wind Goes, a biography of Mae Jemison the first African American woman in space. That story kicked off the journey of a lifetime, with the stars in mind.
The Jacksonville middle schooler practices with her track team during the week, makes sure she eats something green with most meals and gets enough water. She may only be fourteen but with a routine like that, she’s already ready to take on the world. However it hasn’t been easy for Taylor. Her current successful path started with her ability to overcome limited reading skills, ADHD (which she refers to as “Abundantly Different, Happily Divine”), being bullied and feeling like she didn't quite fit in. When it came to working through her problems with early literacy her mom Toni credits the Jacksonville Public Library. Their local branch, Pablo Creek Regional Library, helped Taylor get her reading skills where they needed to be. Toni says that the librarians provided them the tools they needed, like Bob Books which are designed to help struggling young readers. Audiobooks helped too. Taylor read along with physical books while simultaneously listening to them being read aloud. All this help from the library and staff contributed to helping her hone her reading skills and bring her to a solid reading level. Now she’s devouring books left and right; Because of Winne-Dixie and Bud Not Buddy are among her favorites.
“I represent African American women; all girls in STEM; all African Americans.”
When she was a youngster (keep in mind she’s 14 now) Taylor decided she wanted to go to Space Camp. That didn’t seem to be feasible on the budget of a single parent family, so Taylor decided to raise the money on Go Fund Me. Those funds enabled her to make it to Space Camp where she discovered how much she really did want to be an astronaut and earned the nickname Astronaut StarBright. It kindled a fire in her to make it to space one day, and since then it’s been a roller coaster of a time.
Representation is something that really ties Taylor’s mission together. In fact, you could call her a young activist. When she’s not relaxing with some Japanese food or jamming out to Tupac, Taylor is doing her best to advocate for equality for all people. She speaks with conviction, “I represent African American women; all girls in STEM; all African Americans.” That's a heavy role for someone so young, but she makes sure that she does her part every day to best represent ladies in STEM and provide little girls near and far a role model that looks like them – whether it’s her or someone else. This time last year Taylor had just raised funds for young children (boys included) to see Hidden Figures—an inspirational movie about the African American women behind the math that won us the Space Race. Now, she’s raised over $20,000 to make sure that anyone who wants to see A Wrinkle in Time in our town can and will see the movie. In fact, she's inspired other teens to do the same, like Beau from Georgia, who is raising $5,000 for 100 girls to attend a special showing of A Wrinkle in Time in Athens, Georgia.
Taylor has been on Good Morning America, met Oprah and hung out with the cast of Black Panther and A Wrinkle in Time, and that’s only within the last month. She isn’t letting all the national attention get to her though. Her relationship with her mom seems to keep her grounded; the two are constant companions on this crazy road. While her Mom jokingly says she’s Taylor’s “Momager” they seem to keep each other sane, even amongst their crazy schedules. Glancing over at her daughter she said: “My goal is to make sure you have what you need to help others.”
No matter where Taylor is meant to be her “make it happen attitude” will definitely carry her far and it's okay if that doesn’t happen to end in a blastoff to space. “I want to be a lot of things,” says the teen. Whatever you may go, and whatever you may be Taylor, we know that you’ll continue to inspire the people around you!
If you're as inspired by Taylor's story as we are come hang out with her on Thursday, March 15 at our Pablo Creek Regional Library. We're celebrating Women's History Month and who better to represent amazing, strong, and independent women than Taylor, the Astronaut StarBright!