On June 1st, we proudly profiled 12-year-old Taylor Richardson, an aspiring astronaut from Jacksonville, Florida who is on a determined mission to be the first African American woman to travel to Mars. Two weeks later, the 6th grade honors student, triathlete, Girl Scout, literacy advocate, anti-bullying crusader, and changemakerattended the first-ever White House United State of Women Summit in Washington, DC. So we asked Taylor to write an essay about being part of such a monumental event. This is what it meant to her and what it inspired her to do.
By Taylor Richardson – On June 14, 2016, I attended the first-ever White House United State of Women Summit in Washington, DC. To attend you had to be nominated or invited. I was very happy that I was invited to attend by the summit director Taylor Barnes because of my volunteerism and literacy efforts. The summit was a rally to get women and girls like me together to celebrate what women and girls have achieved and how we are to take action to move forward. This summit represented an important movement for women and girls domestically and internationally, as well as for gender equality and justice.
The summit focused on six topics; economic empowerment, health and wellness, violence against women, entrepreneurship and innovation, educational opportunity and leadership and civic engagement. Economic empowerment focused on equal pay and paid leave, as well as childcare and diversity. Health and wellness focused on improving health care delivery, affordable act coverage expansion, global health and many other issues. Violence against women focused on issues like protecting students from sexual assault, tools to address this issue, human trafficking and many more. The human trafficking and protecting students against sexual assault is important to me because this school year one of my friends was assaulted by a family member and she’s my age. This particular topic opened my eyes that we have to be a voice for the voiceless and raise it up. Entrepreneurship and innovation focused on entrepreneurs and how they can grow and get funding. Leadership and civic engagement focused on issues like business leaderships, public and private sector leadership, being a voice and other things. Lastly, educational opportunity and leadership focused on early childhood education, STEM education (my favorite), free college education and international girls’ education.
I will always love STEM and space, but after this summit my voice through action just got bigger and louder!
Some of my highlights were hearing speeches from The Obamas, Oprah Winfrey and from various CEOs from all over the U.S. I also met Kimberly Bryant, the Founder and Executive Director of Black Girls CODE, and leadership from NASA headquarters to name a few. I left this summit engaged and inspired to do more in my city. I also got some time to visit NASA HQ and meet some cool people like chief scientist Dr. Stofan, Astronaut Christina Koch and Cherisse Aquil who is in Quality Assurance for the office of the Chief Financial Officer. She explained to me how funding works for NASA, which is important if I want to make it to Mars. Like she said, “No bucks, no Buck Rogers (google him, lol).” Lastly, I got to meet senator Bill Nelson who is also a former astronaut like my idol Dr. Mae Jemison. I got to tour his office and meet his staff and interns. He even offered me an internship when I’m older. It was great to meet him and learn more about his advocacy for the space program.
from left to right: Taylor with Kimberly Bryant, Founder and Executive Director of Black Girls CODE, with former Astronaut, Senator Bill Nelson, and with Astronaut Christina Koch.
Lastly, this summit gave me a sense that even as a 12-year-old I can make a difference and continue my advocacy for literacy; but I can also be a voice for violence against girls and international education. We all deserve the right to have a great education, to be healthy with access to great healthcare and to be safe no matter what zip code you live in. As Oprah and Michelle Obama said, “Not everyone can be famous, but you can be great through your service.” There is so much more we need to do not just for women but mankind. I’m standing up for girls like me to be a positive voice.
The summit booklet had a part where we could write out three action items to accomplish after attending. My three are: 1) work hard for my and others’ education, 2) engage more youth to raise their voices up against violence against women and girls, and 3) promote gender equality in families so people like my mom can have better pay to provide for us. I will always love STEM and space, but after this summit my voice through action just got bigger and louder!