“Be yourself and know that your goals are more important than what others “think” you can accomplish. It’s okay to dream, but it’s better to do it.”
— Taylor Richardson
This Women’s History Month at Mand Labs we focus our attention on the incredible “Little Women” who are following their passion with grit and determination. In this blog series throughout March, we bring you stories of a few dynamic young women who are paving the way for our generation to soar right through the glass ceiling.
Meet 16-year-old Taylor Richardson, an aspiring engineer, scientist and an astronaut, who has an impressive list of accomplishments in her kitty. Taylor is on a mission to inspire more girls of color into STEM and has successfully raised over $100,000 for STEM-related causes through her crowdfunding campaigns. She has also donated over 10,000 books to young people across the world.
Also known as Astronaut Starbright, Taylor is a student of the Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida. She spoke to Urmila Marak, Head of Communications at Mand Labs, about her philanthropic work and how she remains undeterred by the obstacles that come her way and doesn’t let the challenges slow her down. Excerpts.
1. You are just 15 and you have achieved so much at such a young age. What inspires you towards your dream of becoming an engineer, a scientist and an astronaut?
Knowing that there is so much in the world that hasn’t been explained, or explored. My curiosity drives me to keep moving toward my goals.
2. Please tell us more about your philanthropic work, including what propelled you to start a GoFundMe campaign to help 100 girls watch the movie “Hidden Figures.”
I advocate for girls in STEM so that they know that they have someone encouraging them and who looks like them. Representation in the STEM community is lacking women and people of color, and the media plays a part in that. When I saw a private screening of “Hidden Figures” I was inspired to help other girls see the film because it was the first time I had learned of the extremely important roles that African-American women played in the space program.
I knew that if more girls knew about those contributions then they would feel that they could achieve anything they put their minds to. I’ve raised over $100,000 for STEM- related causes and donated over 10,000 books to young people across the world because representation and education are so important to me.
3. How do you think as an influencer in your space you can motivate more girls in STEM?
Just by showing them that they are enough. I was bullied because of my skin color, retained in second grade because I initially was a slow reader. I was told not to participate in STEM activities because I was a girl, and have ADHD (Which I call Abundantly Different Happily Divine) but haven’t let any of those obstacles slow me down or make me feel like my goals are not attainable. I believe in doing, not just dreaming.
4. As a young girl pursuing a career in STEM, what major challenges do you face?
I mentioned many of them above. When you don’t resemble everyone doing it, sometimes it’s hard to find your comfort space. That’s why I’ve been building groups of STEM sisters so that we’ll have a built-in support system.
5. Who are your role models and why?
Dr. Mae Jemison, Arlan Hamilton, Ava DuVernay and Oprah Winfrey. They’ve each added to a system that already existed, but completely transformed how others think about the space program, investing in companies, creating impactful films, and being the voice of reason in the media.
6. Why do you think it is important to introduce STEM education to children at an early age?
The more exposure that children have to STEM education the faster they can find what they do and don’t like about it. Plenty of college student go into pre-med, without even realizing whether they really like it or because it’s the only job they know in the field. Almost everything that we use in our day-to-day lives like cellphones, apps, cars, television, computers email were created by someone in STEM. If we can convey that message to children, many may not grow up wanting to be doctors.
7. What advice would you love to give your peers and other young girls who aspire to follow in your footsteps?
Be yourself and know that your goals are more important than what others “think” you can accomplish. It’s okay to dream, but it’s better to do it. Find mentors, and ask questions because it’s the only way to learn what you don’t know.
8. How do you like to relax when you are not working?
Hanging out with my friends, going to the movies, and talking on the phone like most teenag
We wish Taylor Richardson the very best in her future endeavors! Follow Taylor Richardson on Twitter @astrostarbright
Urmila, who is a Big Data and STEM enthusiast, works as the head of communications with Mand Labs. She is a believer in transformation of life and career through STEM. She can be reached on Twitter @umarak
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