Inspirefest snapshot: The teenager whose dream is to go into space

22 May 2018

Taylor Denise Richardson will speak at Inspirefest 2018. Image: Latonja Richardson

Taylor Denise Richardson is definitely not your average teenager, and her inspirational dream of becoming an astronaut will play out this June at Inspirefest.

Many of us adults will fondly remember a time when we looked up at the stars and watched science-fiction shows on TV and thought about what it would be like to be an astronaut up there in the murky depths of space.

As the years progressed, reality kicked in and you found yourself moving on to other, terrestrial interests.

For a small few, though, that original dream never faded away and, in fact, only increased as the years progressed.

One such inspirational teenager is 14-year-old Taylor Denise Richardson from Jacksonville, Florida who is set to touch down in Dublin this June as one of the youngest and most fascinating speakers at Inspirefest 2018.

Inspirational Jemison

While spending her typical weekday in the classroom absorbing as much information as possible, Richardson is also a passionate advocate, activist, speaker and philanthropist with not only dreams of following in the footsteps of famous astronauts, but also becoming a scientist and engineer.

A passion still only five years or so in the making, Richardson has not played it slowly with achieving her goals, having already attended four NASA space centres, including the US Space and Rocket Center, otherwise known as ‘Space Camp’, where kids get to see up close and personal what being involved in space is really like.

Given that space has historically been a white-male-dominated space, Richardson considers Dr Mae Jemison her personal idol as the first African-American woman in space when she orbited the Earth in the space shuttle Endeavour in 1992.

Unearthing hidden figures

Rather than being an inspiration for future generations, Richardson is already an inspiration for the current generation of eager young minds as an advocate for science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) education and encouragement.

Among her community, she started a book drive called Taylor’s Take Flight With a Book project, which donates books to kids in programmes who wouldn’t typically be able to afford them.

Likewise, having been inspired by the release of the book and movie Hidden Figures – highlighting the overlooked history of African-American women in NASA – Richardson led a GoFundMe campaign that successfully raised around $20,000 to send more than 1,000 underprivileged youths to see the film.

She followed this up with an even greater feat by raising more than $100,000 to not only help 1,000 kids see A Wrinkle In Time, but also to give disadvantaged kids scholarships to NASA’s Space Camp.

Interestingly, Inspirefest regulars will know of the fine work done by Lottie Dolls, an empowering range of dolls launched in 2012 based on ideas inspired by real kids to break STEM sterotypes.

After discovering Lottie Dolls, Richardson is now a major celebrant of the toys, leading to her appearing in a video produced and edited by none other than previous Inspirefest speaker and filmmaker Elena Rossini.

If you or your kids want to be inspired by her words, check her out as part of the ‘Next Generation: The future is now’ panel on Thursday 21 June at Inspirefest 2018 and follow her on Twitter.

For inspiration from extraordinary thinkers, catch Taylor Denise Richardson and more at Inspirefest in Dublin on 21 and 22 June. Get your tickets now.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic