Colleen Taylor heard Celtic music in her Sherman home as a child.
It was long before she was an award-winning Irish dancer.
While learning to dance, she also learned about the culture and traditions of her great-grandparents' homeland and the Erin Isle came alive.
Colleen has studied Irish language, literature and music during an academic career of excellence. Her passion has become the foundation for her pursuits.
In May, the 22-year-old, an English major with an Irish studies minor, was valedictorian of her graduating class of about 900 at Fordham College at Rose Hill, the largest undergraduate college at Fordham University in the Bronx, N.Y.
This fall, she'll attend Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, for a master's degree.
She visited Ireland in 2007 with her family, but it was in the summer of 2010, when she lived with a family and studied the language, when Colleen made a formative trip.
"I fell in love with the country," she said. "Partly, it's the music. It has a way of expressing the beauty and happiness and yet being able to switch to mournful ballads -- from soft air to reels.
"Everything about Ireland is poetry -- the music and the landscape and the people -- it touches you," Colleen remarked. "That's what I love about it."
At Fordham, Colleen co-hosted the Irish music radio show "Ceol na nGael" on the school's National Public Radio affiliate, where she interviewed some of Ireland's renowned musicians.
She was a finalist for the international Mitchell Scholarship and is an alternate for a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Ireland.
"Going to Trinity is a dream of mine ever since I saw the school when I was 17 years old," Colleen said.
Colleen said she worked hard and remembers studying all the time in the car when she was driving to dance competitions.
In college, professors were accessible and helpful, she said.
"I would go to the professors for advice. I would go to office hours all the time. It does help so much, even just to talk about something that got me excited in class," Colleen said.
Yet she credits Sherman School most for her academic success.
"That was the place that formed me. It was tiny and the teachers were phenomenal," she said. "What they instilled in me was to study and strive, that even if you are smart, you have to strive."
Retired Sherman School principal Dan Murphy said she stood out.
"Colleen was always involved. She was a model citizen, model student and model kid," Mr. Murphy said. "When you are a teacher, she's the type
of student you love to have.
"She's smart and motivated," he added. "She's one that makes the job of an educator the best one to have."