Memorie Bullard is the 2023 Gilbert Scholarship recipient at SCC. (Photo credit/ Brett Feight)
Memorie Bullard is a full-time student in the Human Services Technology program at Sampson Community College (SCC) who plans to graduate in December 2023 with her Associate of Applied Science degree (A.A.S.). Recently, she was awarded The Gilbert Scholarship by the SCC Foundation, supporting current and former foster care students in obtaining a degree at a community college.
Led by Darlena Moore, President of The Gilbert Scholarship, Inc., the scholarship was named in honor of Dick and Mary Gilbert, Moore’s former foster parents who dedicated their lives to helping hundreds of youth in the foster care system. Through the organization, Moore hopes to build upon and continue their legacy.
She explained about the award, “Most students have spent years in the [foster care] system and have aged out. They have no outside support, no place to go for Thanksgiving or Christmas, and no mom or dad to text when life gets hard. Some even enter college without a car or a home. 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. Each student recipient has a few things in common… they know that every story can be re-written; and they want a bright future for themselves.”
From a young age, Memorie Bullard was raised by her loving grandmother, whom she described as her “angel,” until her recent passing in 2020. Afterwards, Bullard was placed in the foster care system while completing her senior year at Lakewood High School (LHS).
Recounting her foster experience as positive, Bullard explained how the family would drive her 45 minutes from Dunn to Lakewood every day just to get to school. During her time with them, Bullard also mentioned that she was able to learn more about Hispanic culture, her culture, an identity she was never able to fully delve into growing up.
Bullard detailed, “The foster family I stayed with were a Hispanic family. Me being half-Hispanic, I grew up with my white family, so I never had any of that culture—I never even learned how to speak Spanish. I learned a lot of things staying with them… it opened me up to a whole new culture that I should’ve been a part of but wasn’t.”
According to Bullard, she is the first person in her family to attend college. She recalled how her previous advisor at LHS had introduced her to SCC and all the opportunities she could benefit from if she just applied. Bullard specifically remembered that he mentioned, “Everyone says that going to big universities is what it’s all about, but sometimes it’s really not…” This led Bullard to applying for the Human Services Technology program and to discovering that, in her words, “Community college was definitely for me.”
From the Viking Voice https://www.robeson.edu/moore-continues-to-pay-it-forward-with-1500-scholarships/
“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give,” famous words once spoken by Winston Churchill.
And it’s a quote that completely embodies the heart and spirit of Darlena Moore, President of the Gilbert Scholarship, Inc., who continues to support students at Robeson Community College and across North Carolina.
Moore stopped by the RCC Foundation on Tuesday to personally give two $1500 scholarships to two students, one to Ravon (Brenda) Jones and another to Khira Thompson.
But this wasn’t her first trip to Lumberton.
Last summer she made the drive from Wilmington to provide scholarships to two other students, Amanda Meares and Riley Scott, both receiving $1500 as well.
Moore is making a life by what she gives – hope, encouragement, and inspiration – by paying it forward to those who have been in foster care.
“The numbers don’t ever seem to go down,” said Moore. “There are 438,000 kids in the foster care system right now, and it can be really discouraging to know that only 3% of those youth will ever graduate from college.”
That’s why Moore started the Mountain Girl Initiative, and the Dick and Mary Gilbert Scholarship, to help those who were in foster care complete college and to make a difference.
“A lot of it is just the support they don’t receive,” said Moore. “It’s all the things like, I ran out of money on my dining card, I need housing, I need a car. All the things that keep you in college.”
Moore knows firsthand what it’s like to be in foster care and the struggles that endure even after becoming an adult and leaving the system.
“I waited tables until 3 in the morning to get through college, so I know part of the journey that these kids are on, and how hard it is, and how much they are overcoming, so I think that’s why I do it. I want to see those numbers change. I see amazing potential that is just not being tapped into.”
After losing her mother at a young age, Moore was placed in foster care and went through several homes until she ended up at the house of Dick and Mary Gilbert, hence the name of the scholarship.
“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.
“So, I started thinking, how can I be a Dick and Mary Gilbert to someone else,” and the idea for a scholarship was born.
“I started this scholarship by cooking granola out of my house, I didn’t know what I was doing or how I was going to do it, but I had a motto of like ‘I don’t know what I’m doing but something inside of me does,’ so I started cooking granola and selling it,“ said Moore.
“This past year with Covid and everything, I stopped cooking Granola. It was a really hard choice for me, but it just got really hard to have a food business and a non-profit,” said Moore. “I had worried if I was going to be able to have enough money coming in for the scholarship, but I have been blessed with many good donors who have carried me through without the sale of granola.”
“So, I have been trying to get out more to tell the story of how this scholarship started and what it means, and hopefully I will have more people come forward and donate just based on the story.”
For Ravon Jones, a business administration student at RCC, the scholarship was a surprise that she was not expecting.
“I’m very grateful,” said Jones. “I just decided that I want to give back to whoever came after me, this has meant so much to me, so I’m going to keep paying it forward too.”
After she graduates, Jones hopes to one day work with non-profits.
“It’s one of my main goals,” said Jones. “I want to make a difference and to help people, just like Ms. Moore is doing.”
For Khira Thompson, a nursing student, receiving the scholarship was an honor and also a chance to heal.
“I’m grateful that I got to share my story today because I haven’t talked about it for a long time,” said Thompson. “I was in the foster care system for 2 years, I had been in multiple homes until my Grandma got guardianship of me.”
Khira plans on transferring to UNC Pembroke or Fayetteville State University upon completing her studies at RCC.
“We are so incredibly proud of both of you, and so honored that you chose Robeson Community College to help you on your journey, because your journey is now our journey, and we are so appreciative to be a part of it,” RCC President Melissa Singler told the students during the ceremony. “You are both going to do great things in life. I see greatness in your future.”
Singler continued by telling Moore, “You are family, and we are so appreciative of what you do for our students. It is not just a scholarship, it is education, and you are bringing to light a very serious problem in our society.”
Jessica Bullard, the director of the RCC Foundation, added to those sentiments, saying, “We appreciate this scholarship, we appreciate you supporting us. You continue to support our students and we are thankful for all that you have done.”
Moore says that she came back to Robeson Community College because statistically, Robeson County has one of the highest rates of children in foster care, but that wasn’t the only reason.
“You have such a wonderful staff, both Financial Aid and the Foundation,” said Moore. “I have been really blessed to work with them. They are really receptive because sometimes I call and I say ‘I need you to find me a student,’ so they have been so nice about identifying students, and just welcoming me and just nurturing what I do.”
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.”
Anyone that is interested in helping to support Moore’s effort of the Dick and Mary Gilbert Scholarship, either through donations or by volunteering your time, can do so by visiting her website at mountaingirlinitiative.com.
After graduating from SCC with her A.A.S. degree in December, Bullard plans to transfer online to a four-year university to obtain her bachelors, and eventually even her master’s degree, with aspirations of becoming a social worker. She hopes to remain locally for her practice in the future, staying in Sampson County or within the region.
“[Degree-wise] I want to go as high as I can,” Bullard shared. “I knew I wanted to help out people who were in my situation too and help out people who’ve helped me. I love helping people… I’m a giver.”
In addition to her full-time coursework, Bullard works full-time at Asa Carlton, Inc. in merchandizing— remodeling Home Depots through resetting bays, building isles, tagging items, and validating prices. Bullard mentioned how she’s learned to become independent over the years, taking care of herself and preserving when times get tough. Working nights, she remarked that she’s now developed a steady routine and learned to balance it all with her courses at SCC.
She elaborated, “Not only is [my job] full-time, but it’s traveling too. I might be in South Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, I never know. I work night shift, so when I get off in the morning, I go right to sleep then wake up around noon to do schoolwork. Then I go on to the next night. I have a little routine— I’m constantly going.”
At just 20 years old, Bullard is also a proud home and car owner, purchasing her first house with her boyfriend back in November of 2022. Coming from similar paths, the couple met right before Bullard was placed in the foster care system, and they’ve had each other’s backs ever since.
Bullard explained, “We both come from the same exact background… we don’t have parents. We do everything ourselves. When times get tough, we don’t have mom and dad to call on, it’s just us. That’s what makes us such a good team.”
During her time at SCC, Bullard stated that she’s thoroughly enjoyed her coursework and instructors, especially Katie Butler, Department Chair of Human Services Technology at SCC. Bullard mentioned that Butler has truly resonated with her as both an advisor and teacher over the past two years noting, “I’ve been through a lot, and she’s [Butler] been very patient with me.”
When asked how she felt about being awarded The Gilbert Scholarship, Bullard expressed that she was initially quite shocked, but also immensely proud of herself. Getting the call from SCC back in February, Bullard stated that The Gilbert Scholarship is the first financial award she’s ever received, and it will assist her greatly in completing her degree at the College.
She concluded, “I got the call and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh I actually got it!’ I applied for it over a month ago. It’s one of those things that you apply for and you’re not sure if you’re going to get it, then you forget about it, and then you get it! I pay all my bills myself, so this really helps a lot.”
Sampson CC is extremely proud of Memorie. The College admires her perseverance and independency in all she does. SCC loves seeing students give back to their communities through the education they received and looks forward to seeing all she will do throughout her career in Human Services to assist others.
About Sampson Community College: Sampson Community College is a member of the North Carolina Community College System, located in Clinton, NC in Sampson County. The college offers many programs to include two-year degrees, college transfer, continuing education and workforce development options and early college education.
About Gilbert Scholarship, Inc.: Gilbert Scholarship, Inc. is a 501c3 non-profit, offering scholarships to youth from the foster care system in NC. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org. To visit our website go to mountaingirlinitiative.com.