Jessica Lilly Published

Emergency Grant Program Helps Concord Art Student Stay in School


A student at Concord University worked through trauma by finding ways to express herself with art. She’s hoping a degree in art will help her teach others how to find the same freedom. But without the help of a new program at Concord, she may have quit school.

“It was a long hard life for awhile in my teenage years,” Concord student Sara Bibb said. 


Bibb says she endured sexual assault, in addition to a turbulent home life as a kid, but she found a way to escape and express emotions through art.


Sara Bibb at about 8-years-old.

“Growing up I would just draw and have fun with it,” Bibb said.  “My room was filled little drawings. My artwork was very dark, but it was just a way to get rid of that negativity.”

Art helped, but Bibb says she still found herself turning to drugs and alcohol until she noticed the impact her behavior was having on loved ones.

“I have a step sister, and she started to look at me as a role model. I didn’t want to be a bad role model, so I wanted to change for that and for myself,” she said. “Because my parents weren’t ever proud of me for anything. So I wanted them to be.”  

Bibb decided to enroll in college to make her parents proud, to be a better role model for her sister, and to empower her passion for art.

But getting to school wasn’t always easy. For money, Bibb worked as a seasonal job during the summer as a zipline guide. But by December 2018, she began to run out of money.

“I messed up somewhere,” she said. “Right at the end I didn’t have enough to make it to the finals, and I was freaking out.

One of her professors suggested Bibb visit the Academic Success Center to see if she qualified for assistance.

This fall about 55% Concord’s undergraduates received a Pell grant, which is given to students from families with low-income.

A survey on campus found that about 40% of students at Concord have dealt with food insecurities, so the Academic Success Center now runs a food pantry.

Just recently, Concord started what’s called the CU Gap Fund. It’s an emergency grant fund for students who find themselves in a financial situation that may lead to quitting school.

The timing was right for Sara Bibb. She needed help, in particular gas money, so she could make it to her classes.

“I just explained that I was having trouble affording the travels and I was desperate for help,” Bibb said. 

Based on her application, Bibb was able to get the help she needed.

Bibb says she still has issues with her car, but she’s thankful for the support she found during the Fall semester. It’s something she hopes to pass on.

“I do want to help people express themselves and to be able to grow on their abilities,” Bibb said. “Don’t let people push you down and tell you can’t do art for a living. That’s what my dad always told me. I want to show you that I can.”

Bibb is still working towards earning a bachelor’s degree in Studio Arts by December 2018. She plans to continue her education and pursue a Master of Fine Arts.


Credit Rachel Babkirk
Sara Bibb overlooking the New River Gorge in October 2016.

Editor’s note: This story has been modified to reflect the correct projected year of graduation as 2018 not 2019.