Thirteen-year-old Taylor Richardson was so inspired after watching the Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures that she set out to raise enough money for 1,000 girls to see the encouraging flick in theaters.
The seventh grader from Jacksonville, Florida, first saw the movie at The White House Hidden Figures in Space Exploration event in December during a special screening. Taylor, an admirer of engineer and astronaut Mae C. Jemison, grew up dreaming of space exploration and aspires to work for NASA one day.
The movie — starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe — is a biographical drama based on the book of the same name by Margo Lee Shetterly. It follows the true story of three female African-American mathematicians at NASA.
“When I saw the movie, I was inspired to work even harder to pursue my dreams.” Taylor tells PEOPLE. “It made me want to ensure we girls help each other, not only get them into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), but to lead in the field.”
Through a GoFundMe page, Taylor raised over $18,000 ($2,600 over her goal) and hosted three screenings of the movie in her hometown of Jacksonville, Florida, on February 19. In total, she was able to help 1,000 girls see Hidden Figures and hand out over 700 books in five states.
“I like [the movie] because it tells the story of how not just three women, but women who looked like me, change the space game for the U.S.,” says Taylor, who has been named GoFundMe’s Hero of the Month. “And that’s huge!”
Taylor admits she was “a little surprised” that she hadn’t heard of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson (the women Henson, Spencer and Monáe portray, respectively) before seeing the film — but says it’s important for her and other young women to have role models like them.
“I’m so glad the book and film are telling this part of American history for us all to know.” she says. “Plus the movie shows we girls can do anything a guy can do — and maybe even better!”
Taylor’s efforts have inspired others and there are now over 70 campaigns nationwide raising money to pay for young women who want to see Hidden Figures.
“I feel it’s important for everyone who has a dream or who may feel they can’t reach it or are told they shouldn’t reach to see this movie,” says Taylor. “Girls need to know if we do the work and stick together like these women did, we can accomplish many things.
“One day maybe one of us will even be a president!”