Taylor Locklear

"(Reptiles) are so different from a lot of animals you meet. They’re laid back. They’re not just coldblooded and freaky, or slimy. They have energy and personality.”

Hometown: Fuquay-Varina, N.C.
Parents: Melanie and Duane Locklear
High School: Harnett Central High School
Career goal: Veterinarian


Taylor Locklear: Caring for exotic animals

Most people who want to be a veterinarian imagine treating dogs, cats or perhaps a hamster. But Taylor Locklear’s dream job is caring for snakes and other reptiles  — exotic animals of all kinds.

Locklear, 17, has two geckos, three dogs and a cat. She’s already in training, and cares for her cat’s diabetes by giving the needed insulin injections. “That really plays into my passion,” she said.

Locklear, of Fuquay-Varina, will be one of 20 incoming freshmen entering East Carolina University in August as EC Scholars – the most prestigious academic scholarship program the university offers.

For Locklear, ECU became the clear choice among many exceptional options. “When the acceptance letters started to roll in, I saw a lot of opportunities open up,” she said. “I saw that at ECU a much better opportunity was going to be available to me.”

Her favorite subject at Harnett Central High School is biology, but she also enjoys English literature. It’s “stress relief compared to all the calculus,” she said. She also enjoys creative writing.

Away from the books, she plays ice hockey with the North Carolina Trailblazers, a women’s ice hockey league in Cary. “It’s a casual league for people looking for stress release,” she said, where’s there’s no fighting during games. “If we run into each other we apologize.”

This summer, she expects to volunteer with Noah’s Landing, a nonprofit zoo in Coats. There, she’ll be able to spend time with reptiles and the other exotic critters she enjoys so much.

While such fondness for cold-blooded animals is unusual, that’s largely because people haven’t gotten to know them, she said.

“(Reptiles) are so different from a lot of animals you meet,” she said. “They’re laid back. You can put one on your arm and walk around with it. They’re not just coldblooded and freaky, or slimy. They have energy and personality.”

For her travel experience, she dreams of visiting the home of Charles Darwin’s legendary tortoises. “I’d like to see exotic species in the wild,” she said. “The Amazon, Africa. Galapagos is my number-one hope.”

An AP Scholar, she’ll spend the next few weeks as a summer camp instructor at Noah’s Landing teaching children to discover the animals in their own backyard.

“They can appreciate the wildlife that’s there – lizards, bugs – before they look for the exotics at a zoo.”

Taylor is the daughter of Melanie and Duane Locklear.

-- Marion Blackburn

About EC Scholars

EC Scholars exhibit outstanding academic performance and effective leadership skills. They have opportunities to contribute to faculty-led research studies, engagement in the community and multiple service activities.

The amount awarded to scholarship recipients is $40,000 ($5,000 per semester for eight continuous semesters). In addition, EC Scholars are provided with a $5,000 stipend to help support their required study abroad experience.

The entering Class of 2016 EC Scholar recipients have completed a rigorous three-tier selection process that includes: meeting the Honors College admissions criteria, having an additional faculty review and completing an on-campus interview. The incoming EC Scholar recipients have an average combined math/verbal SAT score of 1346 and an average unweighted GPA of 3.89.