"Don’t be afraid to try what you like:" Flint Teen is preparing to be the next science media star

FLINT, Michigan — Lydia Taylor, a former Mott Middle College (MMC) student is preparing to become the most talented science educator on television. The Flint teen, who now attends Central Michigan University (CMU), recently became a semifinalist for the Breakthrough Junior College Competition (BJCC) which she describes as a “science communications” contest. As a result, the once home-schooled student has caught the attention of several local media outlets and possibly beyond. 

Her three-minute video presentation for BJCC showcase not only displayed her intellect but her on-screen talent as well. The college freshman could soon be the star of her own science-based show similar to popular series such as Oh Yuck!, Brainchild, or Project Mc2. But now, Taylor is just trying not to be too nervous as she and fifteen other students from across the globe await a decision in November. 

The Genesee County native did not attend traditional classes until high school. Taylor and her siblings were taught by their mom who also encouraged them to “pursue whatever interests” they had outside of learning “the base requirements” of school. 

“I went through this really big space phase," recalls Taylor. "When Mars was going to be visible to the naked eye for the first time in like 30 years, and I asked my mom if I could go out at 2 a.m to see it. She only asked, "did you get your homework done?”

Taylor explained that their parents gave her and her siblings the space to explore whatever they wanted to. She believes that her learning style provided her with an “edge” over other kids.

“In those younger years, there is just something about giving your kids time to explore things versus putting them directly into a school system where you have to be in class for an hour then go straight to the next class,” explains Taylor. “There is value in that. It makes sense when you get older to be put in that more standard system” she continued. “But being a kid with a more flexible school and a sense of responsibility prepared me for college.”

Taylor discovered early on that her two passions were science and writing, but she's also finding out that she has a natural presence in front of a camera. It's no surprise that she has done so well in the BJCC. In what is the last year that she is eligible to compete, Taylor is striving to win $250,000 in scholarship money with her life sciences video titled "Brain City and the Protein Roadblocks."

Aside from paying to continue her education, the CMU freshman is unsure what she would do with all of the money. Meanwhile, she has already been featured on several local news stations highlighting her 3-minute video submission. The presentation shows how her days of “creating silly skits” with her brother paid off. 

“Filming and editing I did simultaneously. I would film in the morning then edit what I filmed that day,” said Taylor as she described her process in creating the video. 

“I messed up a lot” she laughed. “It’s only a three-minute video, but I had like an hour worth of film because I kept messing up, or a cat ran in!”

She also said that during the creative process, she used stop motion and learned how to color correct. Afterward, she felt confident about making it to the popular vote, but a little uncertain about becoming a finalist once she viewed the other students' videos. 

Taylor explained that during the first round of the competition, each participant was required to watch content from 10 other creators, then “essentially grade them. "I’ve been working on not being so competitive and handling criticism."

“It was also interesting to empathize with other students from all way across the world who are going through some of the same things I’m going through,” Taylor went on to say about her experience communicating with some of the international contestants. 

That experience she says also “opened her eyes” to how the pandemic affected countries differently. Though she has never traveled abroad, the young Flint native “really wants to visit France” as a result of the French language courses she took in high school and college. 

Taylor is very proud to represent Flint as well as MMC, and hopes her achievements help bring more publicity to “some of the more positive things about Flint.”

“It especially means a lot to represent my own school because I know a lot of people may not know about Mott Middle College. It’s pretty cool." Her advice for current MMC students is: “don’t be afraid to try what you like.” 

Her future career plan is to become a science writer and possibly work with a popular television network. In the meantime, the announcement of BJCC winners will be selected during a live Breakthrough Prize Ceremony in November (date to be announced).

For more information about the competition, visit breakthroughjuniorchallenge.org

Read more articles by Omoro Collins.