The Mountain Girl - Darlena Moore

Mountain Girl - Darlena Moore

I was born poor in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina — but happy, loved and cared for. One day I came home to find our house empty. My beautiful, strong, hardworking, single mother of 5 was gone. She had been rushed to the hospital, diagnosed with late-stage leukemia. I never saw her again, and after two months in the hospital, she died. The courts separated my siblings and me, and sent us each in different directions. After several placements in foster care, I ended up at the home of Dick and Mary Gilbert.

Dick and Mary added so much beauty and purpose to my life. They taught me about healthy, sustainable eating; being socially and politically conscious; and thinking deep, beyond my own pain to help others. They also taught me about the importance of education and helped me through the college process. The Gilberts always drove home the words that many kids in foster care never hear. “You have a right to be here,” they’d say.

So I started thinking, how can I be a Dick and Mary Gilbert to someone else? How can I add just a little bit to the legacy they have created?  I decided to start a scholarship in their name. But how do you get money for a scholarship? I had no idea.

I set the dreaming aside and made some granola to snack on. As I talked to friends about the scholarship fund and shared my granola, they began to ask, “How can we donate to your amazing cause? Can I buy some of your granola?” A light bulb went off. I put some granola in bags and offered it for sale with the proceeds going to the scholarship fund. A few awesome people bought it. My amazing husband Sam said, “Why don’t you call it Mountain Girl Granola?” And the name was born.

One year later, the first Gilbert Scholarship was awarded to a deserving Wake Technical Community College student in Raleigh, North Carolina who grew up in foster care. Since then, more scholarships have been awarded, with a new one created at Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington, NC.

Each student recipient has a few things in common: They have seen some of what I’ve seen; they know that every story can be re-written; and they want a bright future for themselves. As Brene Brown said, “We are all born imperfect and hard-wired for struggle, but we are also worthy of love and belonging.”

In other words, we have a right to be here.