By AnneMarie Hunter
May was a marvelous month for Bahama native Charisma Taylor.
She graduated from Washington State University (WSU) with a bachelor of arts in hospitality business management from the Carson College of Business. She was named a WSU 2021 Top Ten Senior. And, she qualified for nationals in the triple jump during the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field West Preliminaries hosted at Texas A&M.
These achievements represent the culmination of years of determination, discipline, and aspiration for this 21-year-old student, athlete, and pastry chef.
STELLAR ATHLETIC ACHIEVEMENT
When she was seven years old, Charisma discovered she loved to run. Not only did she discover a passion for running, but also for the feeling akin to flight when she raced down the track.
During elementary school, Charisma’s dreams of a future filled with running and jumping were sparked. However, she had to wait for some of her goals to become opportunities.
“From the beginning,” she said, “I was fascinated with the triple jump and hurdles. In second grade, I told my coach I wanted to do those events, but she told me I had to wait until I was in seventh grade.”
During that five-year stretch, Charisma continued to run with all of her heart and strength, until the door opened on her long-awaited dreams.
“In seventh grade, I finally started the hurdles and triple jump and it was love at first sight,” she said. “Today, I’m still in awe and in love with those events.”
Through middle and high school, Charisma intensified her training and meet schedule. In 2014, she competed in the CARIFTA Games for athletes from Caribbean countries. Although she was victorious in both the long and triple jumps, she also faced some adversity at this event.
“Two consecutive years,” she said, “I fell while competing in the 100-meter hurdles.”
Whether Charisma faced triumphs or setbacks, her parents, Patrice and Dewey Taylor, have been there for her with optimism and encouragement.
“My family is very loving and always cheering me on,” she said. “When I share my goals with them, they’re excited and do their best to inspire me to achieve them.”
“Whenever I fell, they’d say to me, ‘This is part of your story and what’s making your story.’ It was hard to see it then. Now, I think, ‘What if I didn’t fall all of those times? Would I be as strong as I am now?’ My parents were right. It’s been a long road to get here, but those falls helped me be the person I am today.”
Despite challenges, Charisma has built her own field of dreams where achievement is grounded in practice, persistence, positivity, and faith.
Of those, Charisma says faith is the foundation.
“I practice and work on my technique to improve and grow, and I’m mentally strong. I’m also a very spiritual person and committed to my devotions and prayers.”
“When I’m running my fastest, it’s an experience of the whole spirit and being,” she said. “I commit myself to God every time I go out on the track and every time I cross the line. And, I know it’s not just me who crosses the line. It’s God with me and I give all the credit to Him. It’s peace, to be honest.”
CHARISMA, THE PASTRY CHEF
The same year she discovered a joy in running, Charisma found another lifelong passion.
“When I was a child, I started making cookies and cakes in my Easy-Bake Oven,” she said. “My mother realized saw how much I loved baking and suggested I start my own business. So, at age seven, I started Rizzy’s Cookie Jar, [Rizzy is Charisma’s nickname.]”
This entrepreneurial third-grader sold those first cookies to her mother’s coworkers.
“Everybody loved them and I made plans then to be a famous bakery owner one day,” she said.
During the next several years, Charisma continued to grow her sweets business, while also excelling in both school, and track and field pursuits.
Though cookies were her first baking venture, this pastry entrepreneur has expanded her menu to include a variety of donuts and her specialty – tropical cheesecake. While on school break in Nassau last year, Charisma took a leap to further her business goals.
“Last summer, I changed the name of my business to the Pastry Château,” she said. “Though it’s a work in progress, I’m farther along than I was, and one day I’ll own my own chain of bakeries. My WSU program was a catalyst toward the fulfillment of that goal.”
RECOGNITION AND SERVICE
Though WSU is nearly 3,000 miles from her Nassau home, Charisma found a welcoming community in Pullman. She has also given back to the Coug community and lifted others up along the way.
Fellow athlete, Lauren Newman met Charisma in the fall of 2018.
“Charisma and I are both horizontal jumpers, so we practice together daily,” said Newman, a 2021 Edward R. Murrow College of Communication graduate. “What inspires me most about Charisma is her positive attitude and character. Whenever I need a pep talk or inspiration, she’s the person I go to every time.”
Charisma attended WSU as a NCAA Division 1 track and field athlete. Off the track, she was a board member and team representative on the Student Athlete Advisory Committee. She was also financial secretary for the Black Student‐Athlete Association (BSAA), which earned the Community, Equity, and Social Justice and Distinguished Service Awards from the WSU Martin Luther King, Jr. Distinguished Service Award Committee in March 2021.
“The work completed by the BSAA has been monumental in creating an inclusive environment in the athletic department,” said Shelby McKay, assistant director of WSU Athletics. “More Cougs are supporting one another and this directly impacts the athletic experience of Charisma, her teammates, and the entire department. We’re grateful for the work of Charisma and the BSAA.”
Going forward, Charisma plans to continue contributing to the Cougar community.
“One day, I want to come back to WSU and talk to black women athletes and let them know I’ve been where they are,” she said. “I know it can be hard, and I want to be that person who can relate to them.”
BRIGHT DAYS AHEAD
Charisma is optimistic about the future.
“My WSU degree is my proudest moment and I’ve made lifelong friendships here,” Charisma said. “It’s has been amazing to represent WSU as a NCAA Division 1 athlete, and my coaches have been fantastic.”
In the fall, she will attend the University of Tennessee and pursue an MBA in entrepreneurship and innovation. She will also represent the school in track and field. Looking to the future, she plans to become a professional track and field athlete and franchise the Pastry Chateau.