CCAC student Darla Barie was closing in on graduation in April 2007 when she, like many of her peers, was stunned by the news of the tragic school shooting at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Shocked and saddened, but determined to show her support for the grieving school community, Darla was working in a coffeehouse when a chance encounter with a customer gave her an idea.
Admiring the woman’s maroon and orange ribbon, the colors of Virginia Tech, Darla decided she wanted to make her own version of the ribbon to sell, giving all proceeds to the school’s memorial fund. Her challenge was how to make it happen. Her schedule was already very full—besides her part-time job and a full class load, Darla was Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Chapter President as well as a dedicated volunteer for her church.
But it was because of her many ties to the community that Darla realized she had the necessary support to turn her idea into action. She called upon her PTK colleagues to help produce ribbons, cleaning out the region’s stores of orange and maroon ribbon in the process. She sold ribbons at her church, gave ribbons to folks at North Campus to sell and did as much as she could before heading off to Harrisburg for the All-Pennsylvania Academic Team Award Banquet, an event honoring scholarship recipients like Darla named to the All-PA Team.
Arriving at the banquet Darla struck up a conversation with then CCAC President Stewart Sutin, who, after hearing about her cause, pledged the college’s support. At the cocktail hour before the banquet, Darla, who had a bunch of ribbons on hand, worked the room, selling ribbons to college administrators, presidents, board of trustee members and others. At $5 per ribbon, she’d hoped to sell about a $100 worth of ribbons by day’s end, but was surprised by how quickly wallets opened when people heard about her mission. Suddenly, those gathered started to seek Darla out and she quickly sold out of ribbons. As guests were seated at the banquet, Darla and CCAC South PTK President Stacy DiClaudio grabbed spools of ribbon and enlisted the help of all those at their table to make more ribbons. The next morning at a scholarship breakfast she repeated her efforts with the state legislature before heading home with a lot fewer ribbons but considerably more money.
In all, $1,166 was raised to support the Virginia Tech victims and their families, with all proceeds going to the school’s Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund. The donated funds are being used to help with ongoing grief counseling, memorial services and scholarship funds.
As for Darla, she’s working towards a degree in disability services at Indiana University of Pennsylvania where she hopes to someday open a shelter for abused Deaf women in Pittsburgh. When asked why she continues to seek out opportunities to help others, her reply is thoughtful, “My mission in life is to use my God-given gifts and talents to be a blessing to others and make a difference in this world.”
No doubt she already has.
Darla Barie and Dean Mary Lou Kennedy