Stand-out grad: Mark Morris’ Taylor wants to help others overcome mental illness – The Daily News

Stand-out grad: Mark Morris’ Taylor wants to help others overcome mental illness – The Daily News

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Mark Morris High School senior Mikayla Taylor sees the challenges she’s overcome so far in life as the experiences that led her to today’s opportunities.

“I have a lot of memories of overcoming adversity and those experiences taught me that I’m a strong person and I am capable,” she said.

Mikayla Taylor is a 2021 Mark Morris graduate.

Mikayla Taylor is a 2021 Mark Morris graduate.

Taylor started experiencing symptoms of mental illness in her early teenage years, and her mother struggled with addiction and mental illness. While those issues caused turmoil in her life, including having to move to Longview at the end of her eighth grade school year, it also set her down a career path toward becoming a licensed psychologist with a specialization in child and adolescence psychology.

“I realized how much this had prevalence in my life. I didn’t want to fear it; I wanted to understand it,” she said. “People fear what they don’t understand, so I figured if I understood it, I wouldn’t have to fear it anymore.”

After she worked with mental health professionals who saved her life, she said she decided she wanted to “extend that same kindness to other people.”

Not only has Taylor taken advanced placement psychology, she also has given talks to middle schoolers about mental health to help break the stigma around getting aid.

‘Found my calling’

After one talk, “this young lady came up to me and told me how close she had come to the point of no hope and not wanting to exist anymore and she looked at me almost crying and said, ‘I just want to say thank you,’ ” Taylor said.

She still gets teary eyed thinking about it. “I gave her a hug and that was another moment where I had found my calling,” Taylor said.

Even after losing her grandmother during her sophomore year — “she was my best friend” — Taylor never wavered in her school work. Her involvement in writing and reading clubs, National Honor Society, Future Business Leaders of America and a 4.0 grade-point average earned her upward of 40 academic awards and more than $100,000 in scholarships.

“The best parts were taking courses that challenged me as a student and a person, but also widened my view of the world,” she said.

Mark Morris history and civics teacher Steve Kloke said that’s one thing that set Taylor apart the first time she walked into his 10th-grade AP U.S. History class.

“Right out of the gate she separated herself in terms of her academic discipline, study habits and critical thinking skills,” he said. “I could tell after the first few weeks that we had a pretty special student.”

She went on to take honors civics and honors contemporary world problems, and Kloke said she has continued to show an ability to think deeply; come up with rational, realistic solutions to problems; and articulate her ideas at a college level.

“I would classify her as a very intelligent, curious and well-spoken student, probably one of the top five I’ve ever had,” Kloke said.

He said he also admires how Taylor is steadfast in her beliefs, but also open-minded and willing to listen to divergent views. He said he knows if an idea has really challenged her when she “spills in (to my room) at lunchtime and follows up to talk to me a little bit more about it.”

“She learns for the sake of learning,” he said.

Both Kloke and Taylor agree a better work/life balance is a goal she should strive to achieve.

“During high school I really put a lot of focus on 4.0 every semester and basically being perfect in my academics,” she said. “Don’t get me wrong, it was worth it, but I believe in college I won’t be so focused on being perfect as on the experience and how much I’m learning. I want to take more time to make friends and be social.”

Kloke said while Taylor is mature beyond her years, that means sometimes she “carries the weight of everyone else’s problems.”

“She has made great strides, but I’d like to tell her that as life gets a little more complicated and time consuming with work and school, to find ways to not burden herself with having to do everything and please everyone,” he said. “But she knows that already.”

As graduation nears, Taylor looks forward to “learning about the subjects that I love in God-centered Christ focused community with like-minded people who believe in the Lord,” and to keep working toward her goal of helping other people like she was helped.

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