At age 7, Bailey Birtchet went through more than most children her age. Eight bullets were fired at her mother, one of them hitting her. And Birtchet’s father was the culprit behind the gun.
Doctors told Birtchet’s mother that she had a zero percent chance of ever walking again. A year of medications following the attack created an absence of her mother, who was rarely conscious.
“I didn’t really have a mom for a year,” Birtchet said. “It happened at such a young age that anyone would be devastated.”
Ten years later, Birtchet has turned that devastation into motivation. She will be the first member of her family to attend college, with more than$493,000 in scholarship offers.
Birtchet’s perseverance comes from her mother, who proved the doctors wrong. After rehab, she was able to walk again. Today, she lives a normal life, working out and hiking Crowders Mountain with her daughter on the weekends.
The dream to become the first person in her family to attend college, and for free, started at a young age for Birtchet.
“That’s kind of hard to believe because in elementary school, you shouldn’t be thinking about college. But that’s all I could think about,” Birtchet said. “Because I’ve seen my mom struggle, it really motivated me to make her life less difficult.”
One of the first steps toward Birtchet’s success was getting accepted to Highland School of Technology. She was one of the two Gaston Christian School students accepted in the first round.
“I knew Highland was one of the best academic schools and I thought it would give a better chance at applying for colleges, competitive-wise,” Birtchet said.
She joined the National Technical Honors Society, Student Council and became a cheerleader, like her mother was.
Her sophomore year, Birtchet enrolled in a class that helped her find her passion, graphic design. She plans to study graphic design at Meredith College.
Birtchet was invited to the school for their Scholar’s Weekend, where she was interviewed for the Presidential Scholarship.
She said she wasn’t expecting to get it.
“When I found out that I got the full ride, I called my mom right after and we were both crying,” Birtchet said.
In addition to her full ride, Birtchet received multiple additional scholarships, including the Albert G. Myers and KPMG Future Leaders scholarship.
As a first-generation college student, Birtchet’s family was unfamiliar with the process. She received no help while applying for scholarships or writing the 14 essays that they required.
“Most people’s parents help. I had no clue what I was doing. I didn’t even figure out what the FAFSA was until a few months ago,” Birtchet said.
Her family members are all barbers, besides her grandfather who is a mechanic.
Birtchet has completed more than 100 hours of community service. She said her main focus is Relay for Life, which she has personal connection to. Her great aunt passed away from leukemia. She has helped raise more than $10,000 for Relay for Life.
Although Birtchet has lived in Gastonia her whole life, she said it’s time for her to leave.
“I’ve been here so long that I’m ready to move on to new things,” Birtchet said.