science and biology high school in connecticut

Taylor’s Story: Popping the Bubble to Pursue her Dreams

Popping the Bubble to Pursue her Dreams:
How CTRA Scholar Taylor Marchand Took Control of Her Career Destiny 

Taylor Marchand was “the weird tomboy girl who wasn’t afraid of spiders or bugs” growing up, and she found it challenging to fit in with the other kids at school.

One winter, Taylor found a caterpillar in her former middle school’s parking lot, frozen and covered in ice. “I put the caterpillar in a water bottle in my locker so that it would warm up and survive, and a lot of the other kids called me a ‘freak,’” she admitted.

In the previous schools she attended, Taylor wasn’t challenged academically, either, and she distinctly remembered being bored in class. “I would finish my work, and I would sit,” she readily disclosed.

Taylor was also relentlessly bullied in her town for her intellectual ability, and she struggled with anxiety throughout her academics. The bullying escalated, and Taylor was pushed to the point of getting out of town, expanding her horizons, and doing something different with her life.

Venturing beyond the bubble   

“Even as a young girl, I knew I wanted to escape the bubble that I had grown comfortable with,” she revealed.

Taylor was born and raised in the Northwest corner of the state, in Winsted, Connecticut. When looking for a school to start anew, she became interested in Connecticut River Academy (CTRA) for its sustainability and science themes.

More than just a classroom, a cohesive community 

“I was the only person in my graduating class from my town, but I was still welcomed with open arms,” she stated. And although Taylor and her family lived an hour and a half away from CTRA’s East Hartford campus, Taylor commuted every day throughout all four years of high school.

“CTRA has such a focus on community,” Taylor detailed. “In typical structured high schools, there are so many labels that [people can put on you], but I was able to be so much more than one label. I was able to push myself.”

While a scholar at CTRA, Taylor was a member of the intermural and travel volleyball team all four years, and she participated in theatre, where she jumped from minor roles to a lead part her junior year. Taylor also helped plan a dog adoption event through the magnet school and was also an active member of the student government and the National Honor Society.

“All of the relationships I formed in the theatre were magical,” Taylor radiated. Especially after being bullied in her earlier years, the extracurricular experiences helped boost her confidence.

Preparing scholars for professional and social success 

Taylor was a scholar of Connecticut River Academy’s early college model and was fortunate for the preparatory educational experience. Under the dual enrollment program, Taylor experienced the fast-paced college curricula ahead of time, and several of her classes counted toward her undergraduate degree.

“I learned how to take quick notes, study in a lab setting, and work well under pressure,” Taylor explained.

Specifically, Taylor praised the Connecticut River Academy for its approachability of the school’s social studies instructors. “You could go to them with any issue,” Taylor mentioned. “If there was something big happening in the media for social justice, you could come into class, sit down, and have an open discussion on how you’re feeling about current politics.”

“Educators would always try to be there personally for the students and gave incredible advice to anyone and everyone. They reassured students that even if they were nervous about something, that they could achieve through hard work and being yourself,” Taylor enlightened.

Academics with animals 

So, when it came time to decide on a topic for her Capstone project, Taylor couldn’t think of anything more authentic and true to herself than researching, writing a paper, and presenting her portfolio on emotional support animals.

While working on her project, Taylor participated in a mentorship program with a local veterinarian who owned an animal hospital in her hometown. As part of the mentorship, Taylor got to scrub in on surgeries and take care of animals, with the same care and compassion she had helping the frozen caterpillar years before.

On CTRA’s Capstone presentation day, Taylor brought in Reggie, her beloved Shetland Sheepdog, as an example of an emotional support animal for students giving their presentations. Reggie loved being around the other scholars, and Taylor found that he helped their public speaking anxieties. After behaving so well, Reggie was invited back to Connecticut River Academy for an annual end-of-year celebration.

The difference of a diverse student body 

Taylor now attends Tufts University, majoring in biology on a pre-veterinary science track, where she is also the co-captain of the cheerleading team.

Upon entering Tufts, Taylor noticed that college was a culture shock for many of her peers, who had much less inclusive high school experiences. Taylor expressed immense appreciation for her “experience with a diverse study body already in her back pocket.”

Before becoming a scholar, Taylor found her former school systems a bit “bland.” But at CTRA, “the diversity made the biggest impact on my life,” Taylor declared.

“Connecticut River Academy shaped my life,” Taylor also detailed proudly. “Through learning about my classmate’s lives and my teachers and their different cultures, I saw how we are all different yet so interconnected.”

Lessons in leadership 

In her commencement speech on Connecticut River Academy’s graduation day, Taylor advised her classmates to “immerse yourself in diverse experiences with diverse people” and to “take action in hopes to better yourself and others.” 

“Kids bullied me for my academic ability and love for animals,” Taylor shared. “But it’s my passion, it’s what I want to do, and their words weren’t going to change that. If I hadn’t gone to CTRA, I wouldn’t be the person I am today, and I’m appreciative of the opportunity to pop the bubble I once lived in.”

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