Tracy and her husband, Eric.

One of my favorite things about interviewing people for stories is meeting people and listening to the many inspiring experiences that we can all learn from. Tracy Taylor was one of the most inspirational stories I’ve heard yet.

Though Taylor doesn’t have a childhood like many other children do, she’s overcome different obstacles in her life to serve as a remarkable role model for others. Born in SantaCruz, California, Taylor’s biological father passed away when she was just seven years old. When her mom remarried, Taylor and her family moved many times over the next several years of her childhood before ending up in Yankton during her sophomore year of high school. She can recall moving more than a dozen times in a ten-year time span. “As a freshman in high school, I went to three different schools in three different states,”she recalls. It was hard for her to make friends. A painfully shy child, “ridiculously shy,” she states, moving often and being the new kid at school often made her feel insecure of being judged. She had a part-time job during high school and many friends that she made were from work.

Not only was she challenged with moving often, but her step-dad had an addiction to alcohol and drugs. Neither made an ideal living situation for a child, but Taylor grew from the experience and used it to help others.

“No matter what your background, just because you come from a poverty background or may live with an alcoholic or drug addict, you can move on and make something of yourself and accomplish your goals,” she explains.

Education wasn’t something that was strongly valued in her family, but she didn’t let that stop her from what she wanted.

“I wanted to be something, make something of myself, so I just set my goals,” she explains. “I’m going to graduate high school. I’m going to do it.”

Taylor explains how difficult it was trying to keep up with school work and maintain good grades as she kept switching from school to school, but her determination never wavered. She graduated from high school and went on to college at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion. She graduated with a degree in Social Work. She also worked during this time to pay for her own education.

After college, she went into Alcohol and Drug Counseling and mentored at the Mike Durfee State Prison in the Minimum Unit for about nine years. It was here that she could help mentor other men that that were facing similar challenges that her step-dad did. She found this position very interesting.

She then decided to further her education and went back to school to obtain her Master’s Degree in Social Work. This determined scholar not only achieved her goal of graduating high school but also obtained her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees as well.

What was her motivation behind her determination to succeed? “Set goals,” she states. “What do you want to do? Who do you want to be? That was my ultimate goal.” She describes how she would envision her final goal and would then work her way backwards in the steps she needed to reach it.

“I always thought of what is going to happen in the future and how can I make it the way I want it to be.” She said that she understood that her mom had been through a lot, had a hard life and tried to do her best. She knew that if she wanted to reach her own goals, she needed to follow her own path.

Though not an easy one, her childhood gave her determination and drive to push forward for what she wanted. “I wouldn’t be the person today if I didn’t go through what I did when I was younger,” she explained.

She knew already when she was a young teenager that she wanted to get a job where she could help others. She’s been doing just that, trying to help as many people as she can. She previously worked with Lewis and Clark Behavioral Health for a few years before moving over to Mount Marty College as Director of Student Counseling and Disability Services Coordinator.

She has recently moved back to Lewis & Clark Behavioral Health for an exciting opportunity as a Project Success Counselor. She will be working with the Project Success Program in the Middle School and High School. She is eager to work with the youth and teach them about the alcohol and drug abuse, something that she has witnessed first-hand.

“I like the opportunity to know that I can be there for a kid that might be going through what I was going through,” she smiled.

She said that the biggest suggestion that she has for others in a similar situation is to learn to overcome things.

“Just because something happens, you don’t have to carry it with you. There are a lot of different support systems available that you can use.” Though right now your situation or your journey to reach your goal might be difficult, “it’s going to be good in the end,” she states.

When I asked Taylor what she is most proud of, she beams and without hesitation responds that her children are what makes her proud. She loves being a mom. She and husband Eric have four children, ages ranging from fourteen down to eight months. She loves spending time with her family and lists her children as her top hobby.

Taylor is driven and empathic, understanding that people go through bad experiences in their life. What a compassionate, kind person who truly wants to better others from her experience, a terrific role model for so many.

“I want to see people succeed,” she states simply. And by listening to her story, there’s no doubt in my mind that she will.