Taylor McWilliams grew up wanting to be a doctor.
She had the grades, the support of her family, and the desire to help children in need.
But fate had something else in store for this talented small-town girl who was selected for her classes’ homecoming court and voted “hardest working,” “most intelligent,” and “biggest heart” by her peers.
Raised in a family of rural public school educators just outside of Lubbock, in New Deal, Texas, Taylor learned early on how to study hard, help others, and enjoy a six-man football game under the Friday night lights. School wasn’t just the heart of her community, it was the center of her life.
When it came time to choose a career, she decided to continue that family legacy of giving back to her community as a teacher.
“I reevaluated what I wanted from life and decided to go into teaching. I feel as if this profession is the best and most efficient way in impacting a child’s life in a positive way,“ she said.
Taylor, one of first 100 recipients of the Charles Butt Scholarship for Aspiring Teachers, will soon be finishing her degree at Texas Tech University. She is enrolled in the university’s “TechTeach Across Rural Texas” program, which focuses specifically on preparing students for the challenges faced in rural classrooms.
In Texas, rural schools often have fewer resources, limited access to technology, and a significant number of students who live in poverty. It is also difficult for rural schools to attract and retain talented teachers. Texas has more than 2,000 campuses classified as being in rural areas, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. Nationally, Texas has more rural schools than any other state with more than 20 percent of campuses located in rural areas.
The Charles Butt Scholarship for Aspiring Teachers and Raising Texas Teachers program, an $8,000 annual scholarship, mentoring and teacher preparation improvement program administered by Raise Your Hand Texas, is working both to elevate the teaching profession and help support other students like Taylor who are and committed to teaching in high-needs areas.
Taylor says the scholarship reaffirmed that she is on the right path.
“There’s a lot of pride out in rural schools in what they’re doing,” said Taylor. “They may be low socioeconomic but they’re living. They’re happy where they are and that’s a great family to be in. You’re not in a school, you’re really in a family.”