When life hands out lemons, nobody makes lemonade like Taylor Dorsey.
Volunteer, student and exceptionally well-spoken young woman, it's almost impossible to guess that her path in life has been paved with difficulty.
The 19-year-old Pleasanton native has been involved in numerous volunteer programs and is currently a student at University of the Pacific's Gladys L. Benerd School of Education, considering a career in special education.
"I have the passion and desire to give back and help make a difference in anybody's life that I can. I have chosen the path of education because I will be able to give back and help other children every day of my life and this is my mission," she said of her chosen career path.
Dorsey's inspiration for helping others stems from personal experience. Diagnosed with profound hearing loss at only 10 days old, Dorsey had almost no hearing until the age of 3, when she received a cochlear implant.
Through her early school years, she forged through the challenges of mainstream schooling with the assistance of speech therapy and innate determination, unable to form a complete sentence until the fourth grade.
She became interested in leadership and school government when she was in the eighth grade, beginning her journey toward becoming the Rising Star of our Tri-Valley Heroes. She began by visiting special needs classes and organizing special projects for them each week.
"It was such a heartfelt, rewarding experience to see that I was making a difference in their lives," Dorsey said.
She continued on her mission to give back to her community, volunteering with Special Olympics, Habitat for Humanity, serving regularly at a local soup kitchen and Operation School Bell, which helps Northern California children in need buy school clothes.
Dorsey is also the president of the Pleasanton chapter of REACH4BOOKS, a nonprofit that promotes literacy in Peru by raising money to build libraries in Peru on the Amazon River and fill them with Spanish books. The nonprofit was initially started by Dorsey's friends from summers spent in Tahoe, and she became more interested the more she learned.
"Having language challenges of my own, I am very aware of how important reading is in a child's life," she said of the program.
With Dorsey's already impressive volunteering background, she was asked if she would be interested in starting a branch in Pleasanton and being the acting president. She has conducted numerous fundraisers as president, including a teen gala Mexican fiesta dinner, gift wrapping at local bookstores for donations, coin drives and book fairs.
"Helping the Peruvian children learn about the world through books is an exciting way to start my journey as a teacher. Great educators teach subjects, but most importantly they groom children to make this world a better place," she said in a college admissions essay.
Dorsey's efforts in REACH4BOOKS and other programs have been recognized far beyond the local level -- earlier this year she received a "President's Volunteer Service Award" from President Barack Obama.
She was also one of eight University of the Pacific students to receive the James Patterson Teacher Education Scholarship, which awards $6,000 for the 2013-14 academic year. The financial assistance of this scholarship helped make possible her dream of going to University of the Pacific and pursuing her career in education at a well-regarded institution.
"Teachers inspire dreams, shape lives, and give us hope for the future. I will be that life educator for many children," she said.
* Taylor is a fan of the San Francisco Giants and 49ers.
* Awarded the James Patterson Teacher Education Scholarship -- Patterson is also her older brother Justin's favorite author.
* Favorite music is country.
* Earlier this year awarded a "President's Volunteer Service Award" by President Barack Obama.
* Loves to have fun in the outdoors -- like playing soccer, lacrosse, snowboarding and water-skiing.
* Has volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, Operation School Bell and Special Olympics.
* The only food she doesn't like is spaghetti sauce.
* Her older sister, Morgan, is a senior at St. Mary's College.