Tag Archives: Taylor Harrington

Taylor Harrington Speaks Strongly For Those Who Can’t

For some Staples High School students, club rush is a chance to grab candy, as organizations try to lure in new members.

For Taylor Harrington, it was a life-changing event.

As a freshman in 2011, she discovered Best Buddies. The organization — which fosters 1-on-1 friendships between students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and their classmates — grew to be a passion.

As a junior, Taylor was paired with Wyatt Davis. Though they shared similar interests — sports, music and food — and had attended Coleytown Elementary and Middle Schools together, they did not know each other well.

Their relationship grew quickly. They attended Staples games together. Wyatt invited Taylor out on his family’s boat. They attended a “Walk the Moon” concert in New York.

Wyatt Davis and Taylor Harrington, watching a Staples baseball game.

Wyatt Davis and Taylor Harrington, watching a Staples baseball game…

Their friendship has lasted beyond high school. Wyatt has gone to Penn State — where Taylor is a sophomore — for a football game. She showed off the school she loves, and hit the Waffle Shop for eggs and pancakes.

For years the 2 friends have sat in Wyatt’s kitchen, watched his dad Brett cook, and chatted. “He makes the best food!” she says.

Wyatt — who has cerebral palsy — communicates using an iPad attached to his wheelchair. He has a great sense of humor, Taylor notes.

“I love being Taylor’s friend,” Wyatt — now a student at Gateway Community College — says by e-mail. “She makes things easy when we hang out. When she comes over, she’s like part of my family. She is incredibly genuine and sincere.”

“We are all way more similar than we are different,” Taylor notes. “Too many people judge Wyatt and other people with disabilities just because of their medical condition.

“That’s not fair. Wyatt doesn’t let his disability define him, which I love. Any time I think I can’t do something, I think of Wyatt’s attitude. I tell myself, ‘I can do this — just maybe not in the easiest way, or the first way I think of.'”

...and on Wyatt's parents' boat.

…and on Wyatt’s parents’ boat.

Last year — her first in college — Taylor realized how much she missed Best Buddies. She noticed that fellow students who had not gone to school with students with disabilities felt disconnected from them. She also wanted to learn more herself.

That led her to minor in disabilities studies. This semester she’s taking a course with a blind professor. She’s learning how blindness affects the woman’s life, and is asking questions she could not get from a textbook.

Last year, a Deaf Culture class helped her understand hearing impairments as a difference, not a disability.

Taylor’s major is advertising. Her other minor is entrepreneurship. All of those subjects converged in September, when Project Vive — a small State College-based start-up that makes communication devices for people with cerebral palsy and ALS — hosted a poetry night at their workspace.

A 70-year-old woman named Arlyn shared her poetry with an audience, for the first time ever. Because her speech is slurred, she used Project Vive’s Voz Box.

Project Vive's Vox Box.

Project Vive’s Vox Box.

The Box is a speech generation device. It’s customizable — Arlyn operated it with her foot; others use a hand — and at $500 it costs far less than the $16,000 average of similar devices.

Taylor was excited to hear Arlyn — and eager to help.

Soon, she was hired as Project Vive’s marketing intern. She runs social media accounts, promotes events, and creates innovative ways to expand the company’s network of supporters.

She also runs an Indiegogo campaign.

That’s necessary, because even though the Voz Box is a lot less expensive than other speech generators, it’s still out of reach for many.

Her goal is $10,000. But she has less than 24 hours to reach it. The campaign ends tonight (Thursday, December 8) at midnight.

Taylor Harrington, Wyatt Davis, Arlyn the poet and Project Vive have one voice. Through it, they speak loudly and clearly: “Please help!”

Click here to contribute.

THON!

You see them every year in late September. College students stand on street corners all around Westport. They smile, dance — and hold out cans, asking for donations.

Plenty of drivers — impressed by their enthusiasm — hand over bills. They feel good, even if they’re not exactly sure what they’re donating to.

This weekend, Taylor Harrington will be one of those students. Just 3 months after graduating from Staples High School, she’s eagerly anticipating her 1st “THON” as a Penn Stater.

Taylor Harrington (left) with fellow 1st-year student Lucy Mester. Both will be "canning" in Westport this weekend.

Taylor Harrington (left) with fellow 1st-year student Lucy Mester. Both will be “canning” in Westport this weekend.

This week, she emailed “06880.” She wants to explain exactly what she — and thousands of classmates — will be doing here, and across the country, on Saturday and Sunday.

She says that Penn State’s THON — which raises money for children with pediatric cancer — is the largest student-run philanthrophy in the world.

Every sorority and fraternity at the school is paired with families who have a child with pediatric cancer. In February, students and family members dance for 46 hours straight, in the basketball arena. They don’t sleep, or even sit. They just come together to raise money for their cause.

The “canning” weekend — in which students dressed in Nittany Lion logowear ask passing drivers for donations — is another way to raise funds.

A typical Penn State "THON," last year. Katie Seel (3rd from left) will be joining Taylor Harrington in Westport this weekend.

A typical Penn State “THON,” last year. Katie Seel (3rd from left) will be joining Taylor Harrington in Westport this weekend.

Taylor first heard about THON when she visited Penn State as a high school junior. Her tour guide raved about the dance marathon.

Taylor watched videos, and got even more psyched. A couple of weeks ago — finally a college student — she rushed Delta Gamma. The sorority has 3 THON families. She can’t wait to know personally the people she is raising money to help.

She is excited to be “canning” in her hometown. Other Staples grads — including Sarah Ellman, Meghan Lonergan, Gwyneth Mulliken and Katelyn Farnen — will also travel with their sororities, to towns in Pennsylvania and New York.

But Taylor is coming home — and bringing 7 sorority sisters along.

They’ll move around, at various sites downtown. If you see her, now you “can” definitely put a face to a name.

John Dodig: ReSpect

There is only one Derek Jeter.

And there is only one John Dodig.

Inspired by the fantastic Jeter “Re2pect” video honoring the Yankee great on his retirement — with everyone from little kids, cops and Rudy Giuliani to Jay-Z, Spike Lee and even Red Sox fans tipping their cap to the superstar — Staples seniors Zoe Brown and Taylor Harrington set out to give their retiring principal his due.

The result is a remarkable tribute to the high school’s one-of-a-kind leader.

If you know Dodig, and understand all he has meant during his 11 years as principal, you’ll look at this video, smile — and shed a tear.

If you don’t know Dodig, watch anyway. You’ll see the impact he’s had on everyone — administrators, teachers, athletes, actors, musicians, artists, kids who might have fallen through the cracks, secretaries, cafeteria workers, custodians, security guards — and you’ll wish you’d known him.

Zoe and Taylor clearly got the most out of their 4 years in Dodig’s Staples. And turning Jeter’s “Re2pect” into Dodig’s “ReSpect” is pure genius.

(If your browser does not take you directly to YouTube, click here.)

Taylor Harrington Takes The Cake

Like many great bakers, Taylor Harrington posted her favorite creations on Instagram.

Soon, people began asking where they could buy her muffins and cookies. They wondered if she delivered.

She’s still only in high school (though she graduates this month). So Taylor jokingly created an Instagram location — and called it “My Nonexistent Bakery.”

Taylor Harrington's brownies are "richer than Bill Gates," according to her Instagram bakery.

Taylor Harrington’s brownies are “richer than Bill Gates,” according to her Instagram bakery…

So you won’t find a physical site for Taylor’s fantastic goods. But you will see clever captions online. Her brownies are “Richer than Bill Gates,” for example. And when she whips up pancakes, she writes, “I love spending time with my Aunt Jemima.”

(Note: Taylor is as good a photographer as she is a baker.)

She is also an energetic, ever-smiling and very talented young woman. A lifelong Westporter, her activities include the Staples newspaper Inklings; Best Buddies (working with students with disabilities); National Charity League, and soccer.

But baking is her biggest passion.

From a young age, Taylor baked with her mother. A couple of years ago, Taylor began adapting recipes, developing her own style. Her mother was pleased — and so, even more so, were her 3 younger brothers.

Taylor watched cooking shows (including “Cupcake Wars”). She visited Carlo’s Bakery. She was on her way.

Taylor calls her style “big.” Her cupcakes overflow out of their pans. Her cookies are large.

... and her mason jar strawberry shortcake is "berry yummy."

… and her mason jar strawberry shortcake is “berry yummy.”

She is also into mason jars. The other day, she stacked a strawberry shortcake into one.

A good baker needs patience, Taylor says. “It takes more than 1 try to get something right.”

Even chocolate chip cookies are not easy. Her recipe includes melted butter — so the chips melt easily — and that demands care.

Taylor is particularly proud of her “slutty brownies” (chocolate chip cookie dough on the bottom, Oreos, then brownies on top). “They take forever to make,” Taylor says. But — their odd name notwithstanding — they are fantastic.

Of course, Taylor has had failures. A 4-layer cake with vanilla and raspberry puree collapsed. That was especially upsetting because it was her birthday.

But her successes far outweigh those calamities. Taylor would be a popular girl anyway, but her friends look forward to whatever she brings, to any event. (She asked her boyfriend to the Red and White dance by baking red and white cookies.)

“I never felt like baking was a job,” she says. “It’s helped me relax and calm down. It’s given me time with my mom, and time alone.”

Taylor’s next challenge is “figuring out how to bake in college.” She’s headed to Penn State, and is already figuring how to make cakes in a microwave mug.

Taylor Harrington, taking a break from the kitchen.

Taylor Harrington, taking a break from the kitchen.

Best Buddies Spread The Word — In The Very Best Way

Wednesday is a special day for special education students — and their many friends.

It’s “Spread the Word to End the Word” Day. The “word” is “retard” (or “retarded”). The aim is to draw attention to the casual use of that offensive, derogatory term — and end it.

Every year, the Staples chapter of Best Buddies makes a PSA for the day. This year, the group did something — well, special.

Wyatt Davis and Taylor Harrington.

Wyatt Davis and Taylor Harrington.

Best Buddies fosters 1-on-1 friendships between intellectually and developmentally disabled students, and their classmates. Taylor Harrington — a 4-year member — put her iMovie skills to great use.

She asked “buddy pairs” — who have been matched together based on mutual interests all year long — to help out. “I wanted viewers to see our buddies as people just like them, with their own talents and interests — not ‘that kid in a wheelchair’ or ‘in special ed classes,'” she explains. “Best Buddies focuses on our buddies’ abilities — not their disabilities.”

Everyone was excited to take part. Three students cannot speak. So their iPads were programmed so they could say their lines.

Megan Nuzzo and Alexander Baumann.

Megan Nuzzo and Alexander Baumann.

Filming was fun — filled with laughs. Alexander Baumann, a very popular senior, was “so in his element,” Taylor says.

“He was hanging out with his friends, having such a good time.” (He’s the one at the end of the video, flexing his muscles and tickling his buddy Megan Nuzzo.)

Taylor’s buddy is Wyatt Davis. She is thrilled that the video helps other people know “he’s a crazy music lover. He goes to so many concerts with his family. That’s something you wouldn’t know from looking at him.”

The finished product is great. It’s already gotten over 1000 views on Facebook. It’s been shared a lot — even by students not involved with the club.

It will be shown at Best Buddies’ fashion show, silent auction and dinner this Saturday (March 7, 6 p.m., at Staples — all are welcome!)

In the meantime — today, Wednesday, every day — “spread the word to end the word.”

Spread the video, too!

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