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 started cooking granola in my home kitchen and selling it to friends. I used the money from my Mountain Girl Granola sales to fund my first Gilbert Scholarship to an honor student who spent years in foster care and was attending Wake Tech Community College in Raleigh, NC.

Trying to run a food business and a non-profit became quite a challenge! So, I decided to take a break on the granola production and focus all my energies on telling my story to those willing to hear it. People are still listening, and I am still awarding Gilbert Scholarships to deserving students who grew up in foster care! Eventually, the goal is to have one or more Gilbert Scholarships at all 58 community colleges in 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.” Click here to see all of our Scholarship Champs.

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