#STINGDAILY: Passing the Torch

Dec. 14, 2012

Jon Cooper, Sting Daily –

On the basketball court, the ideal point guard is at his or her best when helping others.

Sharena Taylor has always been the ultimate point guard.

And while she is more accustomed to giving than receiving, the Pontiac, Mich., native is excited about being on the receiving end Saturday afternoon, when she is one of 34 athletes that will hear their name called, walk across the stage of McCamish Pavilion and receive their diploma from President Bud Peterson.

“I couldn’t be more excited,” said Taylor, who will receive her degree in Science, Technology and Culture from the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts. “I’m hoping to have all my teammates and all my friends and family that can come, come out and support me and see me walk.”

Receiving her degree on Saturday will be a special accomplishment on a number of levels for Taylor, not the least of which is that she’s graduating in three-and-a-half years!

“I really want to thank Coach [MaChelle Joseph] because she recommends that we stay the summer,” said Taylor. “When we stay the summer we have a little bit more free time to take classes and also prepare for the upcoming season. I definitely thank her for kind of implementing that.

“Yeah, it is hard. It’s definitely hard, especially being a student-athlete, especially at one of the top institutions in the nation,” she added. “I am just thankful. Thankful for a great, great support system throughout my four years here and a great opportunity to be in the position that I am to graduate in 3 1/2 years. I’m kind of flabbergasted by the whole thing myself.”

In addition to Coach Jo, Taylor has had the support of her family, of which she will become the first person to graduate from a four-year college — her parents, mother, Dametria Taylor, who will be at the ceremony, and father, Robert Burch, Jr., both of whom attended college but did not finish.

“They do share with me all the time that they are very proud of me and I’ve done this to make them proud, as well,” Sharena said. “They sacrificed a lot for me along the way and so one real way to pay them is by accomplishing something like this. I’m pretty sure they are as ecstatic as I am if not more.”

As important as achieving her degree has been to her and her parents, the accomplishment means even more because of the example that she’s set for her three younger brothers and younger sister.

“As the oldest sibling it’s always your job to show them the way, to set the bar and the standard. For them, now, there is no settling,” she said. “I talk to them constantly, try to stay on them about academics.

“Two of them have just entered high school. It’s a whole new realm for them,” she continued. “I’m trying to get them to understand that college and high school does matter and they’ve got to take it seriously because at the end of the day, education is the gateway to your future. I am thankful that I am in a position to be influential over them and to be a role model for them.”

Taylor won’t be waiting long to put her degree to use, as she accepted a job offer from Teach For America in November. She also won’t have to go far, as she’s been assigned to Atlanta — the specific school and curriculum are still to be determined.

“It’s a program that tries to bridge the gap in education in lower-income economic areas. It’s a two-year commitment,” she said. “I’ve been placed in Atlanta and I’ll be teaching science and English at the middle- and high school level. I have to continue to wait for my placement as far as what school I’ll be in and what subject or what grade.”

For Taylor, graduation and the job with Teach For America is the culmination of a long, hard road, but one about which she has no regrets.

“With a place like Georgia Tech, I am happy that it has been as hard as it’s been,” she said. “It is NOT an easy road but I’m happy that it’s been this hard because at the end of the day, when I step out in the real world I think I will be prepared. I think that this Institution has prepared me. Sometimes you do wish it was easy but nothing worth having is going to come easy. So I am happy with the way things have gone thus far and I would not change it for anything.”

For more on Teach For America visit www.teachforamerica.org.

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