Taylor Richardson isn't afraid to dream big. In fact, she's determined to turn her dream of flying to Mars into a reality. Ever since she was little, Taylor — also known as "Astronaut StarBright" — has been fascinated by science and outer space. Going to space isn't Taylor's only goal, though. She also wants to make this dream possible for other girls. That's why she wants to help girls around the world learn about STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). Read Taylor's interview to learn why STEM is so important to her and how she's inspiring others to reach for the stars.
How old are you?
When did you first become interested in STEM and outer space?
I've been interested in stars since I was 5, but it wasn't until I read Dr. Mae Jemison's book Find Where the Wind Goes: Moments From My Life that my passion for science and space really took shape. Dr. Jemison was the first African-American woman to go to space! Her story inspired me to raise money to go to a space camp and work toward my dream of becoming an astronaut and engineer.
What inspired your nickname "Astronaut StarBright"?
I got my nickname while at space camp because I loved looking up at the stars and drawing constellations and the moon phases. And people at camp said my future is bright, so that's how I got it!
You've done some incredible work to help expose young girls to STEM. Could you please tell us about those projects?
I was so inspired by a couple of women in STEM-related films that I started a fundraiser to help other girls see the same movies. My campaign inspired others, and ultimately, I raised more than $120,000, which funded movie screenings in 72 cities and 28 states. More than 1,000 girls got to see the movies.
I'm also part of an amazing group of friends who uplift and support each other's STEAM-related goals. (We like the term STEAM because it includes the arts. That's what the "A" stands for.) We met online and call ourselves the STEAM Squad. We spread our joy and love of all things STEAM with others and encourage others to explore the world and universe around them. We do this by sharing projects our members are working on as well as ideas and opportunities we think others would enjoy.
Another project I'm proud of is a documentary my friend Lana Taylor, who's only 14, created about me. It's called The Story of a STEM Advocate. It's not often someone my age has their story told, especially by another person their age. Hopefully, the film will expose more young girls to STEM.
Why do you want to promote STEM education among girls?
Until the recent release of some STEM-related films, women — and especially women of color — were not highly visible in STEM positions. It's so important for young girls to see themselves in their dream jobs and to have role models that look like them. But right now, girls mostly see and hear about what men are doing in STEM fields. Many young girls love math, science, and technology, and I think if they saw more women in STEM and heard more about their careers, they'd be more interested in pursuing their STEM passions. That's why I'm determined to help girls access STEM education opportunities.
What's been the hardest part about your fundraising work?
I guess raising the funds would be the most logical answer. The first challenge is to get people to see and notice your cause. Then you can only hope that people will be so touched by the cause that they'll not only donate, but also share it with their networks.
You've already had some pretty huge accomplishments. What are you most proud of?
I'm most proud of seeing kids who say they want to be a scientist, engineer, or astronaut because they've seen me on a magazine cover or heard me speak. They inspire me to keep promoting STEM and encouraging young people so that all kids — no matter their race, sex, or background — can be whatever they want to be.
Aside from flying to space, what are your future goals?
Right now, I want to focus on my high school studies. I just started ninth grade and am very excited about the next four years. After high school, I want to go to college and study engineering and African-American studies. I plan to continue volunteering and raising money to support STEM education and to perhaps start a foundation. I also hope to do some work in film, television, and the arts, as well as participate in STEM speaking engagements.
Do you have any advice for girls who are also interested in flying to space one day?
Own your power, don't be afraid to stand out in the crowd, and remember to speak up. You have the ability to inspire others with your voice and speak for those who can't. Seek out coaches and apply for scholarships because camps and programs, especially in STEM, are not cheap. Fight for your dreams and don't be discouraged by challenges because we need you!
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I hope that others will see me and know that with hard work, faith, and determination they can reach their goals, whether they are STEM-related goals or not. I also want others to know that we can help each other. We don't have to wait on adults to get things done. For example, my friends and I use our social media platforms to raise money for causes we believe in, expose people to new developments in science, and help and support others with similar goals and dreams.
Additionally, community service is very important to me. So many people have helped me that I want to give back however I can. In addition to raising funds for causes I care about, I also have collected more than 5,000 books for young people through Taylor's Take Flight book drive. I plan to continue volunteering and working to make sure that more organizations and companies are including people of all backgrounds.
You can follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at @astrostarbright. I also recently launched my website, Astronaut Starbright, where you can keep up with my work.
Content last reviewed Friday, September 15, 2018
Page last updated September 15, 2018