Taylor Danae Ellis’ parents have always spoken to her about how different their lives would be if they had been afforded the opportunity of a college education, which is why a university education is important to her.
The daughter of Daron Clifford Ellis, an assistant manager of distribution at Atlantis, and Renee Patrice Demeritte, an operations manager at Royal Bank of Canada, says post-secondary education will provide her with a fundamental stepping stone to the successful future she is pursuing.
Ellis, 18, is in the first semester of her freshman year at Morgan State University (MSU) to which she received a full academic scholarship through Junior Achievement Bahamas.
She plans to obtain a doctorate degree in actuarial science.
“I have wanted to become an actuary since grade nine. I originally wanted to become a mathematician, but discovered that the broad field lent itself to many specializations. After some research, I came across actuarial science and I fell in love. Actuaries take math, statistics and financial theories to analyze the financial consequences of risk. I know it doesn’t sound exciting, but I think taking mathematical concepts you learn in algebra and theories learned in accounts and economics and applying it to a real-world problem, like insurance, is really cool.”
Ellis says she is grateful she is able to be afforded a university education, and wants to take the opportunity she has been given and produce greatness from it – not only for herself but for her family.
The teenager also admits that without a scholarship, pursuing higher education would have proved challenging for her.
“I won’t be the first to say that post-secondary education is costly – whether you study at home or abroad. College isn’t affordable. The scholarship definitely acted as a buffer for my parents’ wallet. I am fortunate to have received one because I know there are many who are in a less fortunate position than I am who deserve a chance at empowering themselves through education.”
Ellis, who graduated with honors from Kingsway Academy with a 4.769 grade point average (GPA) and scored 1,240 on her Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), had her pick of choices as far as where she wanted to matriculate.
She had also received full scholarship offers from Georgia State University as well as Benedict College. She was also the recipient of a partial scholarship offer from Middle Tennessee State University.
She decided to go with MSU because their offer was the best in terms of what the scholarship covered – housing, meal plans and insurance – as well as the fact that their actuarial science program is accredited by the Society of Actuaries.
“I also wanted to experience what it was like to attend an HBCU (historically black college and universities),” says Ellis.
The worship team member at Christ Community Church will also receive $1,000 a year from the church.
Ellis is grateful she’s able to attend university, despite having to begin her freshman year online
“Many of my peers had to give up opportunities that I have the fortune of experiencing. That being said, it is a little disappointing to be experiencing university through a computer screen.”
While she says online learning has proven to be a difficult road to traverse at times, she says it is nothing she can’t overcome in time.
“I believe that it has been going well. I don’t think I’ve experienced the full adjustment as yet, seeing that I don’t have to adjust to living on my own. Work-wise, the adjustment has not been drastic. I believe the few weeks of online school in grade 12 prepared me for the switch fairly well.”
But she admits that university learning is a whole different ball game when compared to high school.
“The courses are more hands-on and self-learning rather than being taught or ‘spoon-fed’ the important information. A lot more reading as well! Despite this, I feel like my professors have been understanding of the current situation. They are willing to answer questions and give aid where they can.”
Ellis is taking 17 credit hours in her first semester online, which she says has translated into her being online doing school-related work for about 11 hours a day, or 55 hours a week.
“I find myself working twice as long now that I am schooling online. I typically have classes for five to seven hours a day from Monday to Friday. After classes, I take about an hour’s break to rest my eyes and then I jump right back in with studying and homework for about three hours.”
Ellis is proud of the fact that she has attained honor roll status since she was a K-4 student.
“I always looked forward to the spring honor roll chapels to get a bumper sticker – that my parents have yet to utilize – and a pencil. I made it a goal to never miss an honor roll and I am happy to say that I haven’t. I believe that was what led to me being [named] salutatorian in sixth grade, and valedictorian in grade 12.”
Her work ethic, she says, can also be attributed to her drive to always be her best. And Ellis does not compete with anyone. She competes with herself.
“I am constantly competing with myself. If I got a 95 percent today, I have to get a 96 percent tomorrow. This led to me pouring my best into my school work and striving to be my best. Over time, I refined the best time to study, my learning style, my note-taking style and my approach to test taking.”
Her advice to her peers who have not developed a work ethic as yet, is to find their drive.
“Whatever pushes you to study becomes the driver of your work ethic. I found my motivation…my drive to always be my best, and I stuck with it.”
Her advice to her peers in this new normal is to be aware of time management and self-love. The advice she is doling out, she says, is something she herself had to learn.
“Learning how to manage my time was a big challenge for me, but once I did, I benefited from it. Make a master schedule for yourself stating what time you plan to get up, when you are going to study, what time you do homework and when you take your breaks. Identify the things that lead to wasted time – for me it’s picking up my phone in between classes/assignments – and try to limit them. The goal is to do your best in this new learning environment, but also to be your best. Being your best means making time for yourself. If you’re tired, take a break. Watch an episode of your favorite show, read a chapter of a novel, do an activity you love or doodle in a sketchbook. While school may be your number one priority, don’t forget to take care of yourself first.”
She may have begun her university studies online, but Ellis says she is looking forward to the day she steps foot on the MSU campus to take classes.
“Right now, MSU is aiming for opening on January 19, 2021, although they are unsure if it will be face-to-face. I really hope they do. I am totally looking forward to being on campus and getting the full university experience.”
One aspect she truly anticipated experiencing as a freshman was homecoming.
“As cliché as it sounds, I wanted to experience a packed football game and listen to the marching band blow me away with its melodious music. I am disappointed that I won’t get to experience it this year, but my school is having a virtual homecoming so I guess I won’t miss it all.”
Ellis graduated high school with an impressive curriculum vitae. She won the Eugene Dupuch Law School Speech Competition. She has won the Beta Hack Coding Competition, and won the KPMG Accounting Bowl.
She sat seven Bahamas General Certificates of Secondary Examinations (BGCSE) in 11th grade, of which she passed with six A grades in English, mathematics, accounts, economics, biology and chemistry; and one B grade in Spanish.
She also took a number of AP courses in her final year and graduated with distinctions in AP Calculus, AP English, AP Chemistry, AP Biology and AP Microeconomics, among other subjects.
Ellis is also a former head girl, prefect, vice-president of her Class of 2020, chaplin of Alpha Kappa Tau Honour Society and chaplin of Teens for Christ at her high school. And she participated in a host of extracurricular activities.