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Overcoming obstacles

Matt Pulford Matt Pulford is no stranger to adversity, so when family issues and financial need threatened to end his dream of a Berry education, he met the challenge head on.

Applying the same determination that helped him overcome a lifelong stutter, Matt gained acceptance into Berry’s Gate of Opportunity Scholarship Program, allowing him to work his way through college with the possibility of graduating debt free.

“I called my parents when I found out,” he said. “Both of them, including my former Marine father, cried.”

Matt’s parents were exceptionally proud of their son’s achievement, but it’s doubtful they were surprised. After all, they’ve watched him excel in the face of hardship all his life. 

Since the age of 2, Matt’s speech has been affected by a significant stutter, a challenge that motivated rather than intimidated him. He worked hard to improve his speech and actively engaged with others. 

Now a rising senior, Matt refuses to be defined by his impediment, choosing communication as his major and successfully running for class president on three separate occasions, continuing a streak that dates back to middle school. He has seized opportunities in the student work program to further develop his communication skills, interacting with incoming freshmen and their families as an orientation leader and serving as a writer for the philanthropic communications staff.  He has also worked to cultivate a sense of community (and mitigate conflicts) as a resident assistant.

Always seeking new opportunities, he took on a new role this summer as a tour guide at Oak Hill and The Martha Berry Museum, sharing the Berry story with interested visitors.

“At times it was really hard growing up with a stutter and not being able to say my own name,” Matt admitted. “But it has changed drastically even from my freshman year here at Berry to where I am now.”

Without the Gate of Opportunity Scholarship, Matt knows that he would have missed out on many of the experiences that have helped to shape the person he is today. For that, he is incredibly thankful. 

“The English language contains only so many synonyms for ‘Thank You,’” he said. “Even if I was to use them all, they would remain inadequate to fully express my deep gratitude.”

Story by Casey Cox, student editorial assistant
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