Taylor Sturdivant, a 2020 graduate of Gainesville High School, is leaving the nest and spreading her wings this July.
She will undergo 10 months of training in the U.S. Air Force Academy Preparatory School in Colorado Springs before heading off to the Air Force Academy for four years.
Sturdivant plans to pursue a career in cyber security at the Air Force Academy and join the newly formed United States Space Force.
“I’m mainly excited about experiencing how to fly,” she said. “I’m so interested in jumping out of planes and being on the flying team.”
Sturdivant said her application involved eye screenings, multiple physical fitness tests — which include running, push-ups and pull-ups — and an interview by the Congressional Nomination Board.
In February, Sturdivant was publicly congratulated by Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, for her acceptance into the preparatory school.
“Taylor exhibits the passion and drive necessary to serve our country, and her decision to follow her family’s legacy of serving in the armed forces makes her own commitment to service even more meaningful,” Collins stated in a press release. “I am honored to recommend such an excellent candidate and I look forward to seeing her career unfold at the U.S. Air Force Academy Preparatory School.”
Sturdivant maintained a 4.1 GPA at Gainesville and served in multiple leadership positions including president of the Beta Club, president of the Coding Club, secretary of the Chinese Club and a member of the National Honor Society of Chinese.
Throughout her high school career she juggled seven dual enrollment classes, 11 Advanced Placement classes and 12 honor’s courses. She additionally led Gainesville High’s track and cross country team as its captain and cheered for the varsity basketball team.
“I’m a to-do list person,” Sturdivant said. “It gets stressful, but you just got to take a deep breath and say you can do it.”
Several months ago Sturdivant said she got a call from Bill Kokaly, who was the longest serving member of Collins’ congressional staff. Kokaly died last week after an 18-month battle with cancer, according to a statement from Collins.
Sturdivant said Kokaly shared with her the good news of her acceptance into the U.S. Air Force Academy Preparatory School.
“I was yelling, cheering and crying with my brothers on the phone,” she said. “I’m really blessed and happy that I got to know Bill Kokaly. I formed a connection with him, and he formed one with my family.”
Sturdivant said she grew up learning about the preparatory school from her family and fell in love.
In July, Sturdivant will follow in the footsteps of her two brothers: Donavan Moss, who graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2018 and serves as a cyber warfare officer, and Cameron Sturdivant, who currently attends the academy.
The recent grad said she owes her success to her biggest supporter — her mother.
“She has really pushed me and my brothers to be the greatest we can be,” Sturdivant said. “She has been there when I’m stressed, when I cry. She has been there through everything.”
Embarking into the unknown comes naturally to Sturdivant. She spent four years learning Mandarin in school and has embraced Chinese culture by attending several traditional festivals. She also recently discovered a passion for writing code.
“I just like to be different, I guess,” she said.
If she could give one piece of advice to other 2020 high school graduates, Sturdivant said she would encourage them to “work hard and dream big.”
“Once you have your eyes on the prize, there’s no going back,” she said. “Stay positive and always keep your head high no matter what.”