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Enterprising Los Medanos student has many irons in the fire

Her long-term goal is to become a senator or the president of the United States, but for now, 18-year-old Rylee Stafford, of Oakley, is focusing on her three small businesses that contribute to her educational costs.
Taking math, economics and speech this semester at Los Medanos College as a communications major, the graduate of Oakley’s Freedom High School  is supplementing her education through reptile parties, greeting card making and tarot reading sessions.
Rylee Stafford, 18, kisses her favorite pet, a chameleon, recently at her Oakley home. Stafford rescues reptiles and goes to birthday parties and other events with her pets to educate people about the reptiles. Also, she makes birthday cards and reads tarot cards to pay for her college costs at Los Medanos College, where she is studying environmental science. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group) 
Her parents, Helen and Russ Stafford, pay all the rest, including room and board not only for Rylee but also for her eight lizards, six snakes, a tortoise and tarantula.
“I love the fact that they are misunderstood and hated by so many people,” Stafford said. “I love being able to find beauty in these weird little animals!”
Her pets are mostly rescued from owners unable to care for them, and Stafford loves dismantling stereotypes through her parties.
“Reptiles are not evil, mean or slimy, and chameleons do not change color,” said Stafford.
She said her parents don’t mind the reptilian family in the house, as long as her dad doesn’t smell them or her mom doesn’t have to look at the bugs they eat. And there’s a fee for her reptile parties.
“I come to the kid’s birthday party or event, and I let everyone see the animals,” said Stafford, who owns one of the largest reptiles in the Argentine family, a 25-pound, four-foot, black-and-white tegu lizard.
“For birthday parties, I normally charge $100 for an hour with four animals,” she added. “And $150 for two hours and four animals.”
Bringing additional animals runs $10 apiece.
“I do it all by myself, so sometimes I have to hire help,” she said.
Along with her aunt, Martha Miller, of Richmond, the two create greeting cards as Stafford’s second business.
“We get stamps from craft conventions, along with different papers, embossing powder and inks,” said Stafford. “We have rubber and gel stamps and some wooden stamps too. We have over 300 stamps, cuts and colors.”
Rylee Stafford, 18, shows off jewelry made of acrylic over shed snake skin recently at her Oakley home. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group) 
Her third business — her favorite — is reading tarot cards; which holds a stigma she enjoys demystifying.
“Tarot cards are not evil. By using your emotions and energy, you choose the advice you are getting. Honestly, try it before you knock it. You’ll be surprised how much this random stranger can tell you about yourself.”
Readings are free, but donations are accepted.
“I do believe that I have a special ability to be able to do these things. A lot of the time I feel the way the people are feeling, and I can feel their energy, so it’s easier for me to give accurate readings because I have emotional insight,” said Stafford.
“I’ve always been the counselor and confidante kind of person; people have always come to me for a lot of things,” she added. “My mom likes it, and bought me a really beautiful deck for Christmas, and honestly I don’t think my dad believes in it. I don’t mind.”
Common requests for her readings are about relationships, school and general advice about life or a loved one who has passed. A recent reading for a girl whose boyfriend died left Stafford appreciating her own relationships.
“I went from knowing nothing to being able to tell her what his advice for her was,” said Stafford. “It really put my relationships in perspective.”
When she’s not reading cards, hosting reptile parties, creating greeting cards or studying for classes, Stafford loves painting, singing, acting and shopping for vintage clothes. She also loves the advice her dad gave her.
“He always told me that the only way to make it in this world is to start my own business,” she said. “So I did!”
Yet her long-term goal of aiming for a seat in the White House is always in the back of her mind.
“I truly believe I can help make a positive change for equal rights and environmental struggles,” she said. “I would love to help dedicate more time and money to helping the Flint (Michigan) water crisis, and more gun restrictions. I believe that where we live should be healthy and safe for everyone.”
Contact Rylee Stafford at rstafford99@yahoo.com.

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