Read the story by Cheryl Hemric on the Robeson Community College website.
Darlena Moore remembers what it was like to become a foster kid. Born poor in the Appalachian Mountains, Moore says that she was happy, loved, and cared for. She was one of five children and she had a beautiful, strong, hardworking single mother to look up to. Life wasn’t perfect, but they were a family, and most importantly, they were together.
One day, very unexpectedly, her life changed forever. She came home to find her house empty – her mother had been rushed to the hospital and was diagnosed with late-stage leukemia.
“She was very sick,” said Moore. “I never saw her again after that, she died two months later.”
Moore eventually found herself in foster care after the courts separated her from her siblings. She was placed in several homes until she ended up at the home of Dick and Mary Gilbert.
“Dick and Mary added so much beauty and purpose to my life,” said Moore. “The Gilberts always drove home the words that many kids in foster care never hear, “You have a right to be here.”
Moore credits the Gilberts for helping guide her future and helping her with going to college. She had always wanted to go to college, but as Moore pointed out, most foster children do not get that opportunity.
“So, I started thinking, how can I be a Dick and Mary Gilbert to someone else.”
Moore decided to start a scholarship in their name for other foster children, to help pay it forward. She needed a way to fund it, so she started cooking granola in her home kitchen to raise money for the scholarship.
Originally, the money she raised from her sales of Mountain Girl Granola helped to fund several scholarships, and those efforts eventually led her to start a non-profit, The Gilbert Scholarship, Inc., which helps kids aging out of foster care go to college. And today, through that non-profit and fundraising efforts, she provided scholarships to two students at Robeson Community College.
RCC students Amanda Meares and Riley Scott were the recipients of those scholarships, each receiving a $1500 check.
“I’m just so thankful for this,” said Amanda Meares, an associate of arts student at RCC who has hopes of obtaining her Juris doctorate and eventually working in the district attorney’s office in Robeson County. “I never thought I would be here, but God has helped me every step of the way.”
Meares says she had a troubled youth after being placed in foster care, but through the grace of God has been able to overcome so much from her past and is now looking forward to transferring to UNC Pembroke to work towards her dreams.
“Christ put something in you to make you want to help us,” said Meares, as she spoke of Moore’s generosity towards former foster children. “And, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Riley Scott shares a similar story and says, “I didn’t want to become a statistic.” Scott found herself in foster care at the age of 14 when she was just a freshman in high school. She will be graduating this July from RCC but plans to come back to obtain her associate’s degree in surgical technology. From there she hopes to attend Meridian Institute of Surgical Assisting in Nashville, Tennessee to pursue a degree in the surgical first program.
“I cannot thank everyone enough for this scholarship, it means so much to me,” said Scott. “To other foster kids, never give up, keep going even when others don’t believe in you, you’ve got to believe in yourself.”
For Moore the joy in giving scholarships is not just about seeing students succeed, but helping each student know that every story can be re-written.
“Don’t let anyone else write your story,” said Moore during the scholarship presentation. “I know what it is like to be a foster child because I was one…. from this day forward, just know that you get to write your own story.”
Moore says that she’s also been able to heal with each donation she has given.
“It helps you to heal when you are able to help others,” said Moore. “Every time I give a scholarship, it is just a great experience, and what a great experience today has been.”