“I had a rough childhood. I experienced many tragedies throughout my childhood, and transitioning throughout my teenage years was rough,” revealed Baton Rouge, Louisiana, native Brittany Bulter, C’2018. “I didn’t begin to open up verbally until I was 16 years old, after my mom passed.”
The death of her mom was not the only loss Butler experienced. In 2006, her 22-year-old brother was murdered. Two years later her sister passed away after contracting HIV from her husband, who failed to disclose he had contracted the virus in prison. Butler’s father began suffering from diabetes complications in 2009, and in 2010 was killed in a fatal car crashed triggered by a diabetic episode. Then in 2012, her mother passed away after receiving a terminal diagnosis.
“I wasn’t processing anything. I didn’t show emotion,” Butler rememered. “Dealing with death after death, I took all of that in and stored it. You become numb. You have it on your mind, but there’s no time to sob. Life goes on.”
Butler found life even more difficult because she and her siblings couldn’t find a permanent home. After staying with an older brother for months, he informed Butler and her sister he could no longer care for them. Their brother was already living with another family member.
Still grieving from her losses and overwhelmed by the task of finding a permanent home, Butler contemplated suicide. It was the thought of her younger siblings that gave her the strength to carry on. Soon after, she and her sister were placed in separate foster homes. Though physically separated, Butler and her siblings remained in touch. Despite her personal turmoil, she still found time to apply to 10 colleges and was accepted into seven.
“Brittany has persevered,” exclaimed Meghan Gieg, a middle-school teacher and Butler’s Baton Rouge Youth Coalition mentor. “She went through a semester where her grades dropped, and she suffered with significant grief. However, through counseling, she took care of herself and became, once again, invested in her academic growth and goals for her future.”
“I applied to Spelman on the day of the application deadline. I really didn’t think I would get in,” shared Butler. Although accepted into Spelman, she decided to attend Louisiana State University. However, a local judge wanted to see her at Spelman.
“Because Brittany was in foster care, she had to go to court as soon as she turned 18 to claim her independent status,” shared Gieg. “While there, one of the judges asked her what college she had chosen. She said LSU because that’s all she could afford; however, she also told him she had been accepted into Spelman, her dream school. The judge began to spread the word and one of the main judges cut her a check to make her dream a reality. It was truly a mini miracle.”
“My Spelman experience has been so amazing, meeting people from different cultures. I’m really proud that I am becoming a free-thinking woman,” said Butler, a psychology major who has found support from the students, faculty, and staff at Spelman. “The sisterhood is real. I get so much support.”
“I continue to be amazed by Brittany’s resilience and ability to understand that her success to and through college are path-changers for her, her siblings, and her future children,” said Gieg. “She strives to be the one who shows her family their potential. She wants to create a reputation of perseverance and this drives her.”
Upon graduating from Spelman, Butler looks forward to using her psychology degree to help youth in situations similar to hers. “I want to inspire others,” said Butler. “Now I ask myself, ‘Would it have been worth it if I’d ended my life?’ If I had, I never would’ve seen all of this come together.”
Kia Smith, C’2004, is social media coordinator for the Office of Communications.