Senior Spotlight: Taylor Heckert

Taylor Heckert is a Dimond High senior, who has spent her high school years participating in remarkable activities and using her voice to make a difference.

She has been involved in StoryWorks, Youth Vote, anti-bullying, Model UN and just making the most of her high school experience.

So what is her proudest high school accomplishment? 

“I’ve never tried to rank my accomplishments before! 

“I bet my answer will change depending on the day, but I think the proudest of myself I’ve been doing a school-related activity was getting 6th in the state in extemporaneous speaking in DDF my freshman year. 

DDF stands for drama, debate and forensics that practices public speaking to a large extent where you can do a variety of speeches. 

“DDF was super fun but also incredibly intimidating to me, so it was such a big deal when I was called up on stage after working so hard all year to receive my award.” 

Heckert is involved in a program called StoryWorks where youth voices can express themselves through telling stories. 

What inspired Heckert to be so active in her involvement with story works and bullying prevention?

“I fell into all of this by pure accident, really!

“StoryWorks was giving a two-week storytelling workshop in Mr. [Marcus] Reese’s class my sophomore year.

 When StoryWorks came to Dimond, students would do in class work for two weeks to prepare a story then present it to the class in a casual way. 

“Since I was young I’d always loved stories, and I was really looking for something to do outside of school, so when StoryWorks told us about SAYiT (StoryWorks Alaska Youth Team) I was all in.

 “One of my first projects with Story Works wasn’t even a StoryWorks specific project, it was a collaboration between SAYiT and Youth Vote (another youth led organization) where we were working on giving out bullying prevention grants and training groups who wanted to use the money.

“I loved being able to help other youth in Anchorage make their communities better, I loved being a part of such a hands on project, I loved being able to meet people face to face, and I especially loved being able to see what everyone put together with the funds. 

Heckert enjoys being able to try new things where she’s able to help make a difference. SAYiT and Youth Vote were perfect opportunities for her to do that. 

 “I think the more you do stuff like this the more passionate you become, I feel like with every presentation I did and every person I talked to I was making an actual difference in someone’s life.

“As someone who’s been on the receiving end of bullying behavior in the past, once you realize you can make that experience different for someone else you never want to stop.” 

During her time involved in StoryWorks she earned the opportunity to go to Ireland to speak at the World Anti-Bullying Forum. 

Heckart described her experiences in Ireland and why she went.

“SAYiT and Youth Vote applied to present at the World Anti-Bullying Form in Dublin Ireland right before I joined, and we ended up learning we were accepted at the end of the year.

That was a great accomplishment for Heckert, SAYiT and Youth Vote.

“I ended up interviewing to go on the trip in front of members of the respective board members of both organizations, and I guess I did ok because I ended up on the list of presenters to go!

“It was my first time traveling overseas, my first time traveling, and my first time presenting at an international conference.

  “What we found pretty astounding was the fact that this was a conference on bullying, something that affects adults and youth alike, yet we were the only youth presenters there.”

Being the only teenagers presenting at an international conference for a whole bunch of adults on a topic that affects everyone is great because the only way to get the perspective of a teen is by letting a teen speak on what they know. 

“It was a little intimidating, but also incredibly exciting to be standing in front of a room full of adults being the expert.

 “My favorite moment was when our workshop broke into groups for the attendees to ask us questions and the adults were so incredibly engaged, asking me questions like “How do I let the youth groups in my school take more charge?” or “I want youth to be more involved in my organization, but I don’t know how to reach out.

“I also ended up learning I’m a big conference geek, here I was a kid from Alaska surrounded by the literal experts in their fields, every single presentation was so fascinating.


Heckert also joined Model UN which is where high school students take on the roles of ambassadors from UN member states and they debate issues that are happening currently.  

What about Model UN interested her to join?

 “I’d been a part of the DDF team my freshman year, so that coupled with all my presenting I’d been doing made Model UN the next step to get some more public speaking in.

 “I also had a friend in Youth Vote who is a very big into Model UN who told me I should do it, so when another one of my friends said he was gonna do it I decided to jump on and do it too! 

 “My country was New Zealand and I was on the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues representing the NZ government.”

“It was a super fascinating and super fun look into how global politics worked.

 “I actually ended up getting far more debating than I bargained for, I did a joint resolution with the Maori people that would give indigenous people voting rights in the United Nations (they currently don’t, only countries do) which meant I had to debate not only in my own committee, but also in front of Security Council and the General Assembly with all countries present.

“I got really into it, it was the best, and I think I’m a New Zealand fan now!”

Heckert has accomplished a lot in her high school experience and of course that comes with some struggles as well so if there is one piece of advice she could let the younger dimond students know it would be,

“Take the opportunities that are thrown at you!” 

“One of the biggest things that I’ve learned is that there are a lot of insanely awesome opportunities out there for high school students, because there are always groups out there doing amazing work.

High school is the place to try new things 

 “If you start doing one thing you have an interest in, it often opens doors to even more experiences and opportunities, you just have to be willing to put in the work to find them.

“I found that my biggest limitations weren’t the availability of cool things to do, but my own perception that I couldn’t do them. When I broke down those mental barriers was when I was finally able to start doing all of these cool things.”

Taylor is a perfect example of a role model who has spent her time in high school being involved and participating in things that make a difference. 

Like she said “take the opportunities that are thrown at you.” High school can be an intimidating place where you are faced with so many types of obstacles, social or academic. 

Don’t let it change what you are passionate about. 

If there is something you want to participate in, go for it.

  If there is a club you want to start, go for it. 

High school is what you make of it so do what makes you happy even if you are scared and if you ever need a little inspiration or push, listen to Taylor’s advice and break down those mental barriers.