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2016 MLK Scholarship winner started her own food pantry, community garden

Talk with Tidewater Community College student Elisabeth Richardson and you’ll understand why her exemplary leadership makes her a fitting recipient of the 2016 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Award.

“Martin Luther King had the ability to rally people together from all walks of life,” Richardson said. “When people come together for a cause even if they haven’t been personally affected – that’s what needs to happen to make positive change.”

The homeschooled Portsmouth native didn’t grow up hungry, but combating food insecurity motivated her to start her own outreach for those less fortunate than her.

“Some people have to decide between putting food on the table and paying the light bill,” she said.

Richardson is founder and director of a food pantry and community garden operated from River Shore Baptist Church in Portsmouth.

What started as her capstone Girl Scout Gold Award project blossomed into an outreach connected with the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia. It distributes healthful food to families one Sunday a month at the church.

“For the community garden portion, we lease the gardens to the community; we have four beds,” she said. “They donate 10 percent of their harvest to the food pantry to encourage a philanthropic attitude toward the community.”

Elisabeth Richardson in her own words

Richardson, enrolled in 16 credits this spring, is finishing her final two semesters at TCC, working toward an Associate of Science in Business Administration.

Her list of possible transfer destinations includes the University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University. She plans to double-major in accounting and finance.

She wants to follow that with a master’s in management and a doctorate in decision sciences.

“This scholarship means so much because it will cover my tuition the last two semesters,” she said. “I always said I was going to go to college and finish without any debt, and people said I couldn’t do that, but I did.

“The money I save can be put toward further education and even a house.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Award recipient Elisabeth RichardsonRichardson’s time at TCC has exceeded her expectations, especially when it comes to mathematics Professor Richard Duncan and biology Professor Sarah Riggs-Shute – “two of the best professors I’ve ever had,” she said.

The college came highly recommended to her, as two of her siblings are graduates. Both received Associate of Science degrees.

“I love TCC,” she said. “I always knew it was the best decision.”

Richardson is a member of Phi Theta Kappa and one of the founders of the National Society of College Scholars on the Portsmouth Campus.

Her vision for the future includes working for a Fortune 500 company and owning as many as four businesses: an accounting firm, a spa, a salon and a winery. She plans to always give back to the community.

Channeling a little of Dr. King, she said, “I dream of living in a world free of crime, poverty and hunger. I dream of a world where everyone has a fair opportunity at success and happiness.”

She added, “That dream can only come true if the people of this nation start looking into themselves to see how they can make a difference instead of waiting on the person next to them to bring about a change.”