Memories of Ferguson shape career aspirations of Fulbright grant recipient

Topics: Scholarships, Honors College, College of Sciences and Humanities

May 30, 2017

Arlesha Moore

Photo by Gail Werner

Arlesha Moore poses in the Honors College beneath one of the banners congratulating her on becoming a 2017 Fulbright U.S. Student Award recipient. Moore said the most important aspect of her Fulbright year "will be becoming part of a worldwide community that is bridging the gap of cultural understanding between countries. I will leave the United States as an eager student and return as a proud ambassador." 

Arlesha Moore, ’17, vividly recalls the riots that resulted in the wake of the August 9, 2014, shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Living at home in St. Louis, the Ball State sophomore was trying to save money for college by working late nights at the Wal-Mart in Ferguson.

“The night of the riots, those of us working in the store got called to the backroom,” Moore said. “There were tanks in the parking lot and people trying to loot.”

Witnessing the events in Ferguson had a profound impact on Moore, who returned to Ball State a few weeks later committed to majoring in criminal justice and criminology. A semester into her sophomore year, she petitioned her way into the Honors College.

Memories of her acceptance bring tears to Moore’s eyes. “Getting into the Honors College started a whole new chapter in my life.”

The newest chapter in Moore’s life begins this fall as she attends the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom as a 2017 Fulbright U.S. Student Award recipient. The grant, established by the U.S. Department of State in 1946, provides funding for students and alumni to conduct research or teach English in more than 140 countries worldwide.

Moore plans to enter a master’s program in criminology, allowing her to study England’s legal system and compare it to that of the United States, with the goal of improving relationships between police and civilians in the U.S.

“I’m still in a bit of shock,” Moore said of receiving the award before graduating in May. “I put everything I had into that application and I’m so grateful I won.”

Overcoming obstacles

One of Moore’s mentors, Michael Brown, interim chair of the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, describes Moore as “a quiet, confident student. But hidden behind those attributes is a passionate desire to make a difference in society.”

“As frightening and discouraging as that experience was, it reminded me why I chose to become a criminal justice major: to give a voice to those who feel they have none.”

— Arlesha Moore
criminal justice and criminology major

He added, “She’s someone who does not take her education for granted,” a truth Moore can attest to.

Growing up, her life revolved around a series of struggles. Her goal of making good grades was challenged by her situation at home, being raised by a single mother who struggled to pay the bills. “During my sophomore year, the lights and gas in our house were cut off.”

Moore’s academic performance suffered. When her grades dropped, she was expelled from the prestigious high school she’d attended in St. Louis, but at her new school, she maintained a straight-A average and took all Advanced Placement classes.

“When I was accepted into Ball State and offered a partial scholarship, I thought my life would turn around, but it didn’t. At least, not right away.”

A first-generation college student, Moore felt an even greater pressure to succeed. Yet again, ongoing financial instabilities hindered her academic potential. “No matter how hard I tried, it wasn’t good enough. I borrowed books to study for exams, stayed up all night to go over notes, and neglected the few friends I had.”

When her mother lost the family’s house, Moore slipped deeper into a depression, but refused to give up on her college career. “I’d worked too hard to get where I was, and I needed to set an example for my two younger siblings.”

She scraped by the remainder of her freshmen year devastated she hadn’t demonstrated her full potential.

Then Ferguson happened.

“As frightening and discouraging as that experience was, it reminded me why I chose to become a criminal justice major: to give a voice to those who feel they have none.”

Determination and a sense of purpose

Arlesha Moore's books

Photo by Gail Werner

Some of the textbooks Moore used during her senior year at Ball State. Financial difficulties made it challenging for her to purchase books throughout her academic career.

Once she became an Honors College student, Moore spent her remaining years at Ball State committed to maintaining an A average.

“Arlesha has gotten to where she is today—a successful graduate of Ball State and the Honors College, about to begin her year as a Fulbright student—through sheer determination and a sense of purpose that I rarely see in students,” said Barb Stedman, director of national and international scholarships.

Moore said there are plenty of unknowns to her future, but she doesn’t fret about them the way she would have five years ago. The opportunities she’s had at Ball State, including an immersive learning project that took her back to Missouri to interview citizens of Ferguson, have prepared her for the research work she’ll soon undertake in the U.K.

Where she once thought of her life’s circumstances as unfair, she now realizes they’ve shaped her into the determined woman she’s become, someone wanting to enter law school after her Fulbright experience to become a civil rights attorney.

“People like to say ‘Everything happens for a reason’ and I never believed that. But now, winning this grant, I’ve been able to see how it’s all added up to this moment … I had to go through everything I’ve been through to solidify my career choice.”

Brown is thrilled for Moore and looks forward to staying in touch.

“It was very emotional for me when I heard Arlesha had won a Fulbright as I’m one of her biggest fans. She’s done everything we tell our students to do: work hard, defer gratification, dream big, believe in themselves…and good things will come.”

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