Free from rebellion and adversity.
Free to educate, guide, and mentor.
"I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me."
My freedom was discovered on February 23, 1981 when I was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. I was a high school dropout, a rebellious teenager who made a bad decision that resulted in a sentence of life with the possibility of parole in 20 years, for a second-degree murder that I did not commit. I was 17 years old.
I was determined to turn adversity into victory, and my freedom was discovered through this process because I knew that it was man-made law, and as long as I had the opportunity to learn and educate myself that I would be ok.
Education has always been important to me. I was born in rural, eastern North Carolina in the early sixties and grew up on a farm with my parents and four siblings. I had thoughts of one day being a teacher because of my love for school. My mother had a 10th grade education and my father had an 8th grade education. My love for school started as early as kindergarten…I loved going to school, it made me feel important.
Through the grace of God and many others, I served “only” 10 ½ years in prison (6 months in maximum security) and was released in August 1991. In the time during and since, I have earned an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree and master’s degree, and I currently am completing my third year of doctoral studies at High Point University majoring in Educational Leadership with a concentration in Higher Education (May 2020). My dissertation topic is Incarceration, Education, Reentry and the Relationship to Recidivism.
As a first-generation college graduate of Shaw University, I earned my associate degree while still incarcerated, and started my higher education career as a secretary in the late eighties through the work-release program between Shaw University and the North Carolina Correctional Institute for Women. Little did I know that this job would pave the way for so many other wonderful opportunities, including a third return to my alma mater in August of 2011 to serve as the first female Dean of Students in the history of the institution. Today, I serve in my fourth term at my alma mater as the Director of Student Retention.
One of the reasons I am honored to serve as the Director of Student Retention is because it allows me the pleasure of working directly with all new students and their parents as the students begin their post-secondary education collegiate journey. It is so fitting because I have the fortunate opportunity to serve the institution that not only educated me, but where I learned from dedicated and committed staff and faculty the value of support and needed advocacy, the importance of investing in self, the power of networking, the benefits of mentorship, the blessed reward in helping others and the joy in paying it forward! In paying it forward, I am here to help them reach the potential that they may not necessarily see in themselves.
I am a true product of having some very important mentors whose shoulders that I have stood on and continue to stand on that invested in me and helped me realize my full potential, when I had no idea. They took me under their wings and the rest is a chapter in my “memoir” where their names are embedded in my heart forever. Mentorship change lives and everyone should have a mentor(s) and BE A MENTOR!
I am now bringing my background together for the benefit of justice-involved individuals. In April 2010, I served as the guest speaker for JobStart 19 and had the pleasure of interacting with 10 outstanding women and also, attended their graduation that June. In March of 2019, I had the privilege to participate in the Reentry Simulation hosted by Interfaith Prison Ministry for Women (IPMW) at Crossroads Fellowship Church, which allowed the participants to see the issues and problems that hinder so many justice-involved men and women from being successful as they reenter society. And, my 2019 calendar is filled with speaking engagements, as I share my journey of incarceration and encourage people who have been justice involved.
Most important, God provided a wonderful man to be my husband. We have been married for 17 years and recently celebrated our anniversary on June 8th. He is my BIGGEST fan!
I have always shared that being free is not about not being locked away from the outside world. Being free is about being healthy, in a good state of mind, feeling good about who you are and celebrating your accomplishments. It is about being in a place of happiness and honesty. It is about being your best self and helping others who are less fortunate or who need guidance and mentoring.
Freedom for me is the audacity to persevere through the obstacles, challenges, trials and tribulations that I have endured and overcome. It is being thankful every day to God and to the many mentors that I had/have who saw the potential in me and invested in that potential. Freedom is helping others because God has blessed me. Freedom is giving, rather than receiving.
It is so not about where, you have been, but rather…where you are going.
I am reminded of God’s word in Phillippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me.
Doris Bullock is a sought-after keynote, graduation, commencement, motivational and inspirational speaker and serves as the Director of Student Retention at Shaw University. She is expected to receive her EdD in May 2020. She lives in Raleigh with her husband of 17 years.