Meet Rickey Taylor, Class of 2021

If you ask Rickey Taylor’s friends and family to describe him, you might hear words like: playful, loves to laugh, upbeat, always smiling, hard-working, caring, funny, and responsible. Rickey describes himself similarly: “I’m extremely playful and fun-loving,” he says. But he is also a high-achiever. Rickey is going into the Air Force Reserves and will be working in electrical and operations systems maintenance. He completed basic training this summer. Rickey will attend Old Dominion University in the spring of 2022 after completing his military training.

Of his choice to pursue electrical engineering, Rickey says, “I’ve always had a passion for electric work, always been intrigued by the concept of it.” In his free time, he likes to do electric work with cars, systems, and LED lighting. It’s his hobby and a passion. After buying his first car, which he says “wasn’t in the best shape,” he and his friends transformed it, doing engine work, painting it, and adding LED lights. Working on their cars together helped him and his friends cope with the pandemic. “We were saving money from working our summer jobs, and this gave us a chance to be together, working outside on our cars, talking, and spending time together unwinding off of Zoom. It was a really positive experience.”

As a member of the Class of 2021, Rickey experienced his entire senior year and graduation during the COVID-19 pandemic. On navigating this experience, Rickey said, “At first it was definitely a challenge because I’m more of a hands-on, face-to-face learner. I never could have imagined my senior year like that. But my classmates and I quickly adapted to the new norm.” Rickey shares that it felt amazing to finally walk across the stage, finish a chapter of his life, and open a new one. “Our whole class definitely motivated each other, because at times it was extremely hard. Especially for it to be our senior year. But we relied on each other. We stuck together, and we got through it.”

AAD has undoubtedly shaped him into the young man he has become. “Without AAD,” Rickey says, “I wouldn’t be where I am today.” Although many teachers and leaders have impacted and inspired him during his time at AAD, Rickey says he has to give special credit to Mr. McKeithan, his sixth-grade math teacher and mentor. “When I first met Mr. McKeithan, I was an extremely energetic and playful sixth-grader. Mr. McKeithan really took me under his wing. He had started a club called Young Men of Distinction, and he asked my mom if I could be part of it. The next thing I knew, I was taking trips, hearing guest speakers, and receiving mentorship from positive male role models. They really pushed me to become the young man I am today, and Mr. McKeithan became a father-figure to me. We would do yardwork together. He and his step-son would talk to me about college, careers, and all the opportunities that were available to me.”

“I have some funny memories at AAD, too,” Rickey says. “I remember going to Busch Gardens for the first time in elementary school as a reward for passing our SOLs. The first ride we went on was the Loch Ness Monster, and we thought we looked pretty cool on the ride. Well, then we saw our faces on the camera and we couldn’t stop laughing at how scared we looked!”

The positive male mentorship Rickey has received has inspired him to be a leader in his own neighborhood and in school. One day, Rickey noticed a young boy two doors down, playing in his yard, tossing a football by himself. “I went over and talked with him, tossed the football with him a little bit. I asked him how school was going. And I began to connect with other younger male students in school, talking in the hallways between classes, asking them if they were maintaining good grades and encouraging them.” Rickey also credits his success and character to his strong family support system — his mother and sisters. His home is the place friends and family want to gather because of the loving atmosphere. Around the holidays, Rickey, his mother, and his sisters help provide for neighbors who are in need. He also has a strong group of friends who encourage each other.

“Eventually,” he says, “I want to come back and give back to the community. I want to be a positive role model to the Young Men of Distinction club, and show them a positive path. Show them that you can be successful in life if you work hard and keep a good group around you.”

As he prepared to head off to basic training the following day, Rickey shared that he was a little nervous, but mostly excited. His time at An Achievable Dream, he says, was a memorable experience, extremely impactful, and something he will never forget. “I’m excited for what the future has in store for me.”

As he prepares to step into his next chapter, Rickey shared one important thing the world needs to know about him: “I’m special, and I’m going to strive for nothing but greatness.”