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09/25/2012

Scholar balances MCATs, crew at Harvard

Taylor Compton grateful for guidance from mentor, TWF board member Sandy Barry
A neurobiology major, Taylor is the first student from her Garden Grove high school to attend Harvard. A neurobiology major, Taylor is the first student from her Garden Grove high school to attend Harvard.

If you sat next to Earl Woods Scholar Taylor Anne Compton, you'd never guess who she is. Mild mannered and sweet, she seems like the typical girl from Garden Grove, Calif., who loves her family and likes to spend time with her friends. Who is Taylor, really?

Well, Taylor goes to Harvard University, studying a little-known major called neurobiology. She is also the first student from Garden Grove's Pacifica High School to ever attend Harvard. And if you think this young lady has had it all, you'd be greatly mistaken.

"I was ecstatic when I was accepted into Harvard, but worried that I wouldn't be able to attend because of financial reasons," Taylor said. "It is especially tough because my parents are divorced. When I finally got my financial aid package, it was very generous, but still required a 'student contribution' that I would not be able to afford. Thankfully, the Earl Woods Scholarship covers this student contribution. Last year, the scholarship also covered the costs of my textbooks and plane ticket home for Christmas break, which was wonderful because otherwise I don't know how I would have paid for my textbooks, and I might have been stranded in Boston."

Grateful and humbled by her blessings, Taylor pushes herself every day to make the most out of her experiences. In addition to being proficient in both Spanish and French, she's traveled the world to study and volunteer in places like China, Spain, Italy and Portugal. During her free time, Taylor likes to volunteer at the Boston Children's Hospital, with the goal of becoming a pediatrician. Her other passion is representing her school on the Harvard women's crew team.

In the midst of preparing for her MCATs and the hustle and bustle of her senior year, Taylor took the time to tell us about her experiences on the Harvard crew team. Just this past June, Taylor and 17 other girls traveled to England to compete in the Henley Women's Regatta, located in a town called Henley-on-Thames.

"It was a special trip," Taylor said. "We're only allowed to travel internationally every four years because of NCAA rules. They didn't have room for everyone. Only the top two boats were able to go, and I was one of the rowers chosen."

As a Southern California native, Taylor had no prior experience in rowing. She also did not join crew until her sophomore year at Harvard.

"I played volleyball and basketball in high school," she said. "My high school did not have a crew team. Crew just seemed like something that was unique to Harvard and the East Coast and the college experience. I missed sports and working out with a team and having teammates. It's so much fun, and I look forward to each crew practice. All my crewmates are good friends. We travel all around the East Coast for competition. Last year, we went to the national championship race in New Jersey."

Although Taylor's boat didn't do as well as hoped in England, Taylor laughed as she retold what happened on the water competition day.

"It was really crazy! There were 50-mph gusts of wind. Currents were really strong. We also borrowed the boat we were in, and the coxswain crashed us! Then a paddle snapped. But we somehow made it to shore. Our other boat called the 'One V' won second place in the whole regatta though."

When it comes to crew, Taylor is very serious.

"It's definitely my biggest time commitment," she said. "I wouldn't really row in the cold and rain if I weren't really passionate about it. If I'm lucky, I might go row after college on Team USA."

Shifting gears, Taylor then spoke about her EWSP mentor Sandy Barry.

"Sandy was really excited for me when I told her I was going to compete in London. She has been very encouraging, both academically and in sports. She also sends me cookies. This summer, I was studying for my MCAT and she was so encouraging along the way. I had the opportunity to go to CHOC and Sandy introduced me to her friend Dr. Mara Minon, who is the director of physician services. She's also on the UCI Medical School Committee.

"Sandy is the best mentor ever. She is so encouraging at all times and has given me so much confidence in myself, and I'm very grateful for that. She is like a friend -- a very knowledgeable, good friend to me."

Barry had much praise for her young mentee.

"Taylor is just an amazing young woman," the proud mentor said. "She seems to be able to manage a lot of different responsibilities so well. Not only with her schooling and summer research, but also travels and crew. I'm so proud of her. She had a summer research project that focused on early identification of autism in children."

In addition to spending her summers helping children with cerebral palsy in Spain and teaching high school students writing skills in China, Taylor also volunteers during the school year. She's had the opportunity to volunteer with many different organizations, ranging from the Perkins School for blind children, to Massachusetts General Hospital, to the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter. She's also the director of Harvard Emergency Medical Services, which certifies students in CPR at a reduced cost.

Sandy, a former superintendent of the Anaheim City School District and a TWF board member, enjoys a close relationship with Taylor.

"We're good friends," Sandy said. "She knows she can count on me for anything. We have a very open, warm relationship. My goal right now is to do whatever I can to support her application to medical school. Introducing her to pediatricians at CHOC, local universities, medical admission boards -- that's what I'm here to do, anything I can to help her."

What does Sandy see in the future for Taylor?

"I'm confident she's gong to be a successful doctor. She loves little kids. She's great with people. She knows what it is to struggle a little bit. She has a real giving spirit, too. I have no doubt that she will reach her goals. She's going be a real lovely lady."