When Taran Richardson was in high school at Tindley Accelerated Schools, he developed an appropriate motto for himself: #NoSleepInMySchedule.
Richardson, who graduated this year, was a four-sport athlete at Tindley and put the motto on the back of his warm-ups for all of his sports: cross country, basketball, soccer and track.
He made the Dean’s List his junior and senior years with a 3.7 GPA and graduated as salutatorian. That was while serving as class president all four years of high school, working a part-time job at Walmart and earning Eagle Scout honors.
“It’s me essentially saying I’m gonna persevere and push through,” Richardson said in an interview.
Now, Richardson is on his way to Howard University, one of 65 colleges he was accepted to, where he’ll study astrophysics.
“You know how you want certain things for your child? For me, it’s like, wow, it’s really happening,” Rita Richardson, his mother, said. “I’m so proud of him. He is an awesome, wonderful kid and has been since the day he was born.”
A mother’s praise doesn’t mean Richardson followed a straight and easy path from birth to Howard, though. Rita didn’t like the direction her son was going in middle school, when Richardson started looking at what his classmates had — a cell phone, more name brands — and began prioritizing material pursuits over his education. He even drew Nike symbols on his socks.
Education must come first, Rita would tell him, which is why Richardson enrolled at Tindley in seventh grade. He wasn’t on board at first — he had to cut his dreadlocks and the middle school was boys-only — but Rita told him he could meet girls at the YMCA.
Richardson said the education environment — Tindley’s motto is “College or Die” — helped him change his mind. Plus, he was able to get the school to change its hair policy as class president his sophomore year.
Patrick Jones was the middle school principal when Richardson was there and became his mentor. Jones was the type of principal to call home when a student was just having a bad day — not necessarily a disciplinary thing — and that’s how he came to appreciate how much respect Richardson has for his parents.
“He’s just a genuinely good person from the first time you meet him,” said Jones, who is now senior vice president of leadership and equity at The Mind Trust.
Those who know Richardson describe him as an unassuming leader who has no problem taking charge with his actions. When he was in middle school he helped younger Cub Scouts and was part of a leadership program.
Richardson was also involved with Stop the Violence Indianapolis, which empowers young people to take charge in public safety issues, and helped build a broadcast studio for the organization.
His accomplishments inside and outside of the classroom led to recognition from the Carlton S. and Jennie Chaney Microlearning Center — which is named after Richardson’s great-grandfather and great-grandmother — and Emmanuel Connection Microlearning Centers during a virtual event July 25.
“Success is something that is never guaranteed,” Richardson said during the event, “but just because it isn’t guaranteed does not mean that it’s unreachable.”
What Richardson didn’t know about the program celebrating his accomplishments was that he was also getting a college stipend from the Chaney Fund, which was started by his great-grandfather and is meant to help support the family’s academic ambitions.
Richardson said he was appreciative of the gift and hopes to continue his great-grandfather’s legacy while pursuing his degree and aiming for his dream job at NASA.
It’s an honor to receive these types of recognitions, Richardson said, but that isn’t the reason he works hard and lends a helping hand.
“It’s what I feel is right,” he said. “We should try to better ourselves and better our community with our actions. It should be a daily thing.”
Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.