Editor’s note: This story is one in a longstanding annual series in the MDJ spotlighting the county’s best and brightest as they graduate high school. The recognition takes on new meaning with the loss of many senior activities due to the coronavirus pandemic.

ATLANTA — When it comes to her academic and career goals, 18-year-old Taylor Catlin is shooting for the stars — literally.

Catlin recently graduated from North Cobb High School with a GPA of 4.53 and is bound for the Georgia Institute of Technology in the fall.

In her time in high school, she completed 14 advanced placement courses and was also involved in extracurricular activities, including community service.

Catlin said she served as the president and co-founder of the Rescue Warriors Club, helping animal welfare nonprofits care for animals as well as gather supplies. Among other groups, she was also a member and volunteer for the National Honor Society, a speaker at freshman orientation events, and a supporter of fundraisers for Relay For Life.

But while she loves to serve the community, Catlin said her passion for her future work is not of this Earth. The teen says she’ll attend Georgia Tech with a major in biology and hopes to become an astrobiologist at NASA, studying life in space.

She said biology and astronomy courses in ninth and 10th grade ignited her passion and exposed her skill for science. Later science classes continued to affirm her love for the subject, so Catlin said she studied up on astrobiology on NASA’s website and realized, “this could be me.”

“I just want to jump into it. I love science. ... I really like the idea of studying life in space. I could ramble about it for hours,” she said, noting that she’ll continue to graduate school directly after her graduation from undergraduate studies. “And I eventually want to go for my doctorate and be the first doctor in my entire family on both sides.”

Jennifer Johnson taught Catlin in multiple advanced science courses and described her as naturally intelligent, passionate and engaged.

“She doesn’t do anything halfway. If she’s going to try a class, she’s going to give her best to it,” Johnson said. “And she likes to show her passion for the things that she’s learning.”

Johnson added that Catlin is eager to help others learn as well, a rarity among students who perform at such a high caliber, who are naturally competitive.

Catlin’s family said her work ethic has been built solely by her, with very little need to push her for more.

“Taylor has always worked really hard,” her father, Shaun Catlin, said. “She’s a self-starter, she’s self-motivated. It’s cool to see.”

The graduate’s mother, Laura Hardeman, agreed, giving credit also to the teachers at North Cobb for their support of her daughter and to Taylor Catlin’s friends for doing their best alongside her.

The student’s brother, Ethan Catlin, a rising sophomore at Harrison High School, echoed his parents, saying his sister has always striven to be the best possible person she can be.

While Taylor Catlin said she’s excited to venture off to college, she’ll miss most the safety net that high school life provided. She said there were many services readily available and friends and family nearby to help her if she stumbled. But, she said, she knows her friends and family will always be there for her when she needs them.

As for what continues to motivate her, Taylor Catlin said she simply likes to succeed. While she said she understands high school accomplishments will mean less and less the deeper she gets into her career, in everything she does, she relishes getting to experience the especially sweet fruits of especially determined labor.

“It is nice to know that I worked hard and it shows,” she said.

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