Awards like this provide students with opportunities they never imagined. It frees them up from worrying about how to pay the bills and allows them to focus on how to change the world.
Last year when Tyeisha Gilchrist, ‘26, learned she was the first recipient of the Martin Richard Fellow Scholarship, she was excited, it meant her dream of working as a private investigator could become a reality.
Established in 2021 by Bill and Denise Richard (both members of the class of 1993), the Martin Richard Fellow Scholarship fully funds tuition, fees, on campus-housing and a meal plan. Each student selected will receive $100,000 to fund four years at Bridgewater State University.
“This scholarship means I get to live on campus for free and I get the full college experience,” Tyeisha said. “Since being on campus I’ve been able to connect with people and have access to different resources. I’ve been able to get academic counseling and scholarship counseling. All of the layers of support have been helpful.”
Ten years ago when Bill and Denise lost their son Martin, then 8, during the Boston Marathon bombing tragedy, they founded a charity in their son’s name to honor his memory.
The Martin Richard Foundation invests in programs that advance their late son’s values of sportsmanship, inclusion, kindness and peace, programs like the Martin Richard Fellow Scholarship.
“This scholarship transforms lives,” said Ellen Cuttle Oliver, chief development officer of alumni and development. “Awards like this provide students with opportunities they never imagined. It frees them up from worrying about how to pay the bills and allows them to focus on how to change the world.”
To qualify, recipients of the scholarship must be graduates of Dorchester’s Neighborhood House Charter School, where Martin and his siblings attended and where Denise worked as a volunteer librarian.
The scholarship is merit based and provides opportunities for students to deepen their knowledge and commitment to civics and social justice.
In addition to covering all institutional fees, the recipient also becomes a Martin Richard Institute for Social Justice (MRISJ) fellow.
MRISJ Director of Outreach and Engagement Jennifer Thibodeau, along with other members of the BSU community and Neighborhood House Charter School, decide which candidate is most deserving.
“First, students must maintain a 2.0 GPA, or the equivalent, but what we are really looking for are students who are excited and passionate about community service,” Thibodeau said, adding that Tyeisha stood out because of her participation in Outward Bound, where she served in a leadership role.
This past year, as a MRISJ fellow, Tyeisha has performed multiple service projects, including her work with School on Wheels, a local program that provides school supplies and other resources for homeless students.
She has also been involved with other projects through the Old Colony Y in Brockton.
“Giving back is important to me because if you live in a community, you should do all you can to help those who are struggling. I want to help others as best I can, I want to take action, instead of sitting by and doing nothing,” she said.
Watching Tyeisha transition from high school to BSU as she pursues a degree in criminal justice; witnessing her growth as a student, it has been inspiring, Thibodeau said.
“We couldn’t be more thankful that Tyeisha is our first scholar. She is so open, honest and willing to do the work that needs to be done. She is helping us build this and helps us better define what this scholarship will look for in terms of future scholars,” Thibodeau said.
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