Tazmerria Wilson is no ordinary high school senior.
The 17-year-old middle child with six siblings has already accomplished more than most do in double the time. While her attention to the things you’d find any other high school senior focusing on is easy to discern, Taz has another story that has recently propelled her into the spotlight in a way she never expected.
During the last school year, she was approached by her varsity golf coach, Chad Ferrell, who is also the school’s Audio Visual & Film teacher, about entering in the 2021 Hope Givers Film Challenge. This summer, it was announced that Taz was first runner-up in the overall contest and she won the Hope Givers Storytelling Award as part of the contest. Taz was awarded a $600 grant and her film will run on Georgia Public Broadcasting next month.
In her award-winning short film, Taz shares her story of hope. She had both of her legs amputated when she was three-years old due to a rare bone condition called bilateral tibial hemimelia. She is a member of the Statesboro High Girls Golf Team. She credits two mentors – Tina Rigdon and Don Garrett – for her success and her decision to take on golf as a sport when she was in eighth grade.
“Winning the Hope Film Challenge Storytelling Award Grant means to me that there is light at the end of the tunnel,” Taz said in a GPB interview. “I love that I’m someone that can be seen as motivation to show others that there is always hope. I encourage people of all ages, races, genders, or creeds to never lose sight of their visions.”
While Taz has shared the story of her journey for years with those closest to her, the video marked the first time she shared it on such a large platform. “I found a lot of confidence by stepping outside of my comfort zone,” she said of the video. “I know how it is to be someone with challenges and to not feel like enough. To not feel like enough to be able to embrace myself, but then once I did, I wanted to share that with others and encourage them.”
When Taz sat down for her interview with TheGeorgiaVirtue, she was fresh off the highway from her time at Camp No Limbitations, a camp specifically designed for kids and teens with similar circumstances and experiences to team-build, boost self-esteem, and experience summer camp activities in all of the best ways.
It was the first time she had ever been away from home without her family, but the experience couldn’t have been better. Taz gushed about all of the friends she made while there and the fact that she did every activity offered. From rope climbing to the zip line, she checked it off the list.
When asked if it was tough to be away from each other for the week, Taz’s mother, Chirika Wilson, said “It was very hard for me!” as Taz laughed and beamed about how she managed to do just fine, something that made her feel better about going to college next year. But the camp is technology-free, so Chirika waited all week to hear how it was going. Taz gushed about the friendships she made, the counselors she met, and the accomplishments she made.. She said she only wishes she had started attending sooner and can’t wait to return as a counselor in the years to come.
But Taz’s success at camp is a testament to the truth behind strong women raising strong women.
Chirika says it has inspired her for 17 years to watch her daughter get up with a positive attitude every day. “She never really gets down-down. She said she has always tried to let Taz set the pace while she just worked to keep up. But she’s just an inspiration.”
As much pride as she takes in Taz’s success and growth, Taz looks up to Chirika even more. When asked how Taz tries to set a good example for her siblings, she turned the answer on her mom. “Honestly, my mom is my biggest support system because I can tell in her heart and soul she wants the best for me. Working hard, praying hard, she does everything.”
Chirika says she has seen the impact sharing her story has had on her daughter. “It’s done a lot for her. I can tell it’s impacted her perspective.” It’s one of the reasons Chirika had high praises for Coach Chad Farrell, too. Not only did he encourage Taz to enter the contest, but he spends considerable time improving his own skills so he can be a better coach for Taz. “He wants to see her play and he goes home and studies how someone with a deficiency would do certain things on the course.”
When she’s not golfing, working on school work, or helping out with her younger siblings, Taz enjoys drawing – something she taught herself to do in her free time. She spends time with friends and she has a dozen new ones from camp with whom she is keeping in touch. Her busy schedule doesn’t leave too much time for much else, but when there is time to reflect, Taz said she just wishes she would have learned the rewarding part of ‘self-love’ earlier on.
“I’ve always loved myself. But I don’t care what anybody has to say about me or how I do things now. It takes a lot of my shoulders. I would be worried about what people were thinking or saying, but now I just want the people around me to have the same confidence I do,” she said.
Taz has big plans for the future, too. Her dream school is the University of Georgia, where she plans to study Criminal Justice in hopes of becoming an FBI agent one day. “I know she’ll do it,” Charika said. “Because she’s not a quitter.”
Hope Givers will launch on Georgia Public Broadcasting & National PBS Learning Media on September 1.
About the 2021 Hope Film Challenge
The 2021 Hope Film Challenge is an inclusive initiative to make substantive advances for connectedness in schools with students and trusted adults as well as support 6th-12th Grade student filmmakers in producing short film content (30-90 seconds) to practice their craft and further develop their storytelling capabilities in telling stories featuring hope and resilience.” The contest was open to students in grades 6-12, and they were required to partner with an education mentor in their school to submit a 30-90 second video.