RALEIGH, NC – 19-year-old Denay Cuffey thought she was going down to the Hope Center at Pullen to grab some things for her dorm. Instead, she was surprised with a check for 1,500 dollars from the Gilbert Scholarship to pay to help pay for her third year at North Carolina Central University.
Cuffey cried after award founder Darlena Moore presented the check to her.
“You don’t even know how much he’s about to help me. I mean, I don’t even know what I was going to do. I’m, like, short for school, and I didn’t know what I was going to do. And I just thank you all so much. Is a blessing for real. And I’m praying so hard,” Cuffey said.
Former foster kid Darlena Moore started the Gilbert Scholarship in 2016 to help youth leaving the foster system pay for college. She named the award after her own foster parents, Dick and Mary Gilbert.
Moore says that she started the fund because she knows first-hand how it feels to grow up in the system.
“I know what it feels like to not have somebody to call home to and all of those things and dealing with all about financial and personal stuff that you have to deal with in college,” Moore said while presenting the scholarship to Cuffey.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there are nearly 438,000 kids in the foster care system. Of those, around 50 percent will graduate from high school at age 18, less than five percent will graduate from a four-year university, and between two and six percent will graduate from a two-year program.
Cuffey says she’s grateful for the help to continue her education.
“When I first got into foster care, I really didn’t care about school. I didn’t care about my future or what was going to go on. I just wanted to get through the day…Thank you for supporting me and for never, ever, ever turning your back on me. You never turned your backs on me since I got into care in 2017. We’re in 2023,” Cuffey said.
The scholarship is geared towards those who’ve gone through the foster care system in North Carolina, who are now attending college or technical school in the state. Moore says that unlike many federal grants for former foster youth, she aims to put as few restrictions on the award as possible. Eligible applicants must meet a minimum 2.0 GPA, but there is not age limit, or limit to the number of awards received.
To learn more about the Gilbert scholarship, apply, or even donate click here