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Tayloni’s Story

Tayloni Mazyck, the 2019 recipient of AFC's Education Champion Award, is in her junior year of high school and on track to receive a Regents diploma in June of 2020.
Tayloni (L) at AFC's 2019 Spring Benefit, where she was the recipient of our Education Champion Award. Sheinelle Jones (R), Co-anchor of NBC News’ Weekend TODAY and Co-host of 3rd Hour, NBC News’ TODAY.

Tayloni has quadriplegia caused by a stray bullet that struck her while she was standing in front of her apartment building when she was 11 years old.  Tayloni had spent most of her 6th grade year in the hospital and rehabilitation when she and her mother, Priscilla Samuel, first came to AFC for help finding an accessible middle school.  An AFC attorney, Allison Guttu, became Tayloni’s advocate, stepping in again later that year to get Tayloni’s schedule adjusted so she wouldn’t be pulled out of her academic classes for her occupational and physical therapies.

Later, when it was time to attend high school, even though Tayloni was an honors student, she found that her choices were severely limited by the lack of accessible high schools. Allison fought for Tayloni’s admission to an accessible high school and advocated alongside her and her mother when they subsequently confronted issues with her school-related health and transportation services. Along the way, Tayloni also was aided by Steve Lozner, an attorney with DLA Piper, and Steve Chudnow, then at Prudential, now at Wachtel Missry, who helped Tayloni receive 180 hours of home-based tutoring to make up for the time she had missed for frequent class removals. AFC is currently negotiating with the Department of Education for Tayloni to receive her current physical and occupational therapy plus additional services to make up for those she has been denied, and we are poised to go to hearing if necessary.

Throughout, Tayloni has refused to give up on her education or to accept no for an answer. Indeed, she was recently described by a teacher as “the kind of student that makes teachers want to teach.”