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Living the dream

Darren BarnetDarren Barnet grew up watching his parents struggle financially, knowing that, without a miracle, college and his dream of becoming an international news anchor would be beyond his reach.

Darren’s “miracle” came in the form of Gate of Opportunity Scholarship donor Audrey B. Morgan and Berry alumnus Bill Pence (76C). Through Pence’s encouragement and Morgan’s generosity, Barnet is a student at Berry today preparing for his dream career.

Barnet’s drive to succeed began in high school when he realized that scholarships were his only hope for attending college, something that no one in his family had done before. And although his future hung in the balance, Barnet didn’t take the easy route to good grades in high school. Instead, he enrolled in an extremely rigorous academic program focused on international studies. It wasn’t easy, but for three years everything went well.

And then, at the beginning of his senior year, tragedy struck. The man who was his hero – his father – died.

“My father’s death really changed me as a person,” Barnet said. “Seeing him struggle day by day at a dead-end job, just barely getting by, killed me. I realized when he passed that I could lie down and let the experience defeat me or I could learn from it and strive to be the very best I could be in life. … I chose to keep on pushing forward.”

For Barnet, that meant he had to finish his senior year with grades good enough not only to gain admission to college, but also to win scholarships that would completely cover the cost of his education. He had a long road ahead. But he wasn’t walking it alone. His mother, Deborah Barnet, and Pence, his best friend’s father, were at his side.

“My mom is the strongest woman I know,” Barnet said. “She wanted me to never have to experience the terrors of financial hardship, and by always pushing me to strive for success, she made sure that I never will. I could not have made it this far without her.”

And it was Pence, a role model to Barnet, who first brought him to Berry.

“He knew how much my family struggled financially and that I was really nervous about paying for college,” Barnet explained. “When he brought me to Berry, I completely fell in love, but I didn’t think there was any way I could afford it. At first, I didn’t even want to apply, but with my mom’s encouragement, I finally did – and I got a Gate of Opportunity Scholarship.”

Barnet, who is pursuing majors in international studies and communication and hopes to intern at CNN, recognizes that his Gate of Opportunity Scholarship has given him a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“When it comes to helping someone achieve their life goals, Berry is unparalleled,” Barnet said. “My freshman year, I was able to start building experiences through the student work program that will give me an advantage in my future career. I helped create a new sports show for the school, and I was one of the lead interviewers. I filmed a number of events which are now on the Berry website, and I am meeting such incredible people.

“It still gives me chills to think that last year I thought being here was nothing more than a dream, but it turned into a dream come true. I want to thank Mrs. [Audrey] Morgan, my Gate of Opportunity Scholarship donor, from the bottom of my heart. Her generosity made it possible for me to have a college education. Without her, there is no other way this could have happened for me.”

By Debbie Rasure
originally published in Fall 2010 issue of Berry magazine

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