Scholarship continues alumnae’s community engagement

Students seeking a degree in social work at East Carolina University could find their experience enhanced by a scholarship honoring the memory of Kristian “Krissy” Monet Richardson ’21.

Krissy Richardson graduated from ECU in 2021 with a degree in social work. (Contributed Photos)

The Krissy Richardson Memorial Scholarship was established in the College of Health and Human Performance by the Monet Richardson Community Foundation. It is part of the organization’s mission to cultivate student success by fostering strategic partnerships, engaging business and community leaders, and empowering students to realize their individual potential. The ECU scholarship and the foundation’s work focus on Krissy Richardson’s passions.

When Pat Richardson talks about her daughter Krissy, a mother’s love and pride are obvious. It is easy to understand why she was inspired to keep Krissy’s memory alive through the work of the foundation.

“She was an amazing humanitarian, an amazing friend. She always saw the best in people,” Pat Richardson said of her daughter. “She loved what she did and worked hard at it.”

Krissy Richardson was killed in a car accident in May 2021. In her brief 23 years, Krissy had already made an impact by caring for others through her charity efforts and was beginning to find success in creative business pursuits.

Her mother said Krissy had been accepted into the Master of Social Work program at North Carolina Central University (NCCU) while focusing on her RichSets brand – a nails, hair, makeup, fashion and modeling business she created.

“She and I met for Mother’s Day of 2021. That was the last time I saw her,” Richardson said. “She was so excited about life and her plans. She said she was going back to school in the fall to finish her master’s degree.”

Whether it was pursuing her entrepreneurial interests or making plans to continue career plans in social work, Richardson said her daughter had a caring and determined spirit.

“A lot of people talk about how beautiful she was, and I saw that too,” Richardson said. “When I think about her, I think about the Krissy that didn’t wear makeup, then I also think about the Krissy who was pursuing the career she loved: being an influencer, her brand, and the beautification of women.”

Krissy was a high school athlete and active in intramural sports at ECU. Richardson said Krissy planned to study to become an athletic trainer. Her mother realized during orientation that the plan was changing.

“She said, ‘I just want to help people,’ and so off we went to social work,” Richardson said. “She had opportunities (at ECU) and she was a very fulfilled student.”

Honoring Krissy

Establishing a foundation to honor Krissy’s memory was a quick decision for Richardson. A few days after her death, friends told Richardson they wanted to hold a candlelight vigil to remember Krissy. They organized an event at Stroud Rose Garden in Chapel Hill.

“I tell you, there were over 300 people there, just people everywhere. It was such an emotional moment,” Richardson said. “They had hundreds of balloons with her initials, her colors, her pink and purple, that she loved. And one after one, her friends came up and spoke about who Krissy was in their lives.”

Hearing all the stories of Krissy’s impact inspired Richardson. Ideas to honor her daughter were growing.

One of the people in attendance was Randy Smith, who had hired Krissy to work at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA when she was in high school. Krissy kickstarted a backpack program for children while at ECU, ensuring underserved kids had a new backpack filled with school supplies when they returned to school in the fall. Richardson told Smith she had some ideas and wanted to speak with him.

“I told him I would like to start the backpack program again. And he said, ‘We will be honored,’” Richardson said. “So, three days later, I decided to do this.”

When Krissy approached Smith about the backpack program he supported her idea, but told her there was no staff or funding to run it. “She told him, ‘I will do it,’ and she started a GoFundMe for the project and a social media campaign to gain support,” Richardson said.

Following in her daughter’s footsteps, Richardson restarted the backpack program as an annual event and the first effort of the foundation. Filing for nonprofit status was step two and in September 2021, the Monet Richardson Foundation was established.

“We did our first backpack program, where we gave out 175 backpacks our first year and $2,500 in academic scholarships,” Pat Richardson said. “That encouraged me and I said, ‘This can work.’ We’ve grown from Orange County, which is where we started, here in Chapel Hill, and we’re now in five counties in two and a half years.”

Helping students

The foundation provides funds annually to support the social work scholarship at ECU. Richardson said she hopes to increase to a second scholarship in the next few years. They also raise funds to support $1,500 in scholarships for high school seniors in Durham and Orange counties.

Since its creation, three students in the School of Social Work have earned the Richardson scholarship, which prioritizes seniors. Richardson said watching her daughter work through her senior year, which included field study and class work, helped her understand the needs that are particular to students completing their major in social work.

Amir Floyd ’22, left, was presented the first Krissy Richardson scholarship from Pat Richardson, right.

Amir Floyd ’22, the first Richardson scholarship recipient, said the support was a dream come true. Floyd is currently working toward a Master of Social Work at NCCU.

“This scholarship was a way for me to continue the legacy that (Krissy) created,” Floyd said. “Receiving this scholarship at the time sparked a fire and motivated me to continue through that senior year strong and also to continue to give back and help improve the lives of people within the communities that we are involved with.”

It has been encouraging to Richardson to meet the students who have received the foundation’s scholarship. She stays in touch with them on their career journey. She now has one former recipient serving on the foundation board and hopes to have more in future years.

“Having someone who’s been a recipient of our scholarships sit on our board of directors just speaks volume to how we want to develop the young people that we’re working with,” Richardson said. “We want to have a youth presence because Krissy was only 23. The work we do was inspired by a young African American woman.”

Continuing Krissy’s community engagement efforts requires the work of the foundation board and many volunteers Richardson pulls into action. They created an annual 5K as the major fundraiser for their backpack and scholarship work. This year’s Running with the Angels 5K was held March 23 in Chapel Hill.

“You can feel the love in the air. A lot of Krissy’s friends come,” Richardson said. “People and businesses that believe in us, that have known Krissy and me for years have made it a wonderful event.”