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The Early Childhood Education Research Scholarship in Memory of Darius Avery Bell

Published December 14, 2020

“I think now more than ever students need encouragement,” shared Dr. Jennifer Montgomery (BA ’92, M.A. ’97, Ed.D. ‘20) who established The Early Childhood Education Research Scholarship in Memory of Darius Avery Bell. This scholarship, named in memory of Dr. Montgomery’s husband, awards a scholarship to a doctoral candidate in the CSULB Educational Leadership doctoral program during their final year, whose research and dissertation is contributing to the field of Early Childhood Education (ECE).


Dr. Jennifer Montgomery and sons
Dr. Jennifer Montgomery and sons

This year, the scholarship was awarded to Educational Leadership student Cynthia Castillo who plans to continue working in special education after completing her doctoral degree. Inspired by her experience working in early childhood education, Castillo shared, “Looking back, the most significant experience that led to my pursuit was working with students at the preschool level. I found great joy and fulfillment dedicating my work to these students and seeing how they were able to flourish as a result of it.”

For Castillo, the scholarship allows her to have better access to resources and facilitates her study. “I feel very fortunate and honored to be a recipient of this scholarship.”

Cynthia Castillo
Cynthia Castillo

The scholarship was inspired by Dr. Montgomery’s husband, Darius Avery Bell, who suddenly passed away during Dr. Montgomery’s second year as a doctoral student and shortly after adopting their baby. “He was my biggest cheerleader in the program and in life.  He was already calling me ‘Dr.’ and telling our friends and family how proud he was of me. Establishing this scholarship was my way of honoring his life and supporting the next generation of early childhood researchers.” 

Dr. Montgomery hopes that her story and professional dedication to early childhood education, along with her scholarship elevates the status of the field.

The creation of this scholarship has not only benefitted the recipient, but Dr. Montgomery shares how establishing the scholarship has impacted her as a donor:

“The scholarship has given me the opportunity to honor my husband’s life and acknowledge his support for my educational goals. It has also given me the chance to support the field that has been so instrumental in the success of my career. I recently received the letter from the first recipient of the scholarship and it was so reaffirming that I did the right thing.

There is a quote from Nelson Mandela, ‘There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul, than the way in which it treats its children.’

Through the integrity of my work I strive to embody this message and to make the world a better place. A kinder, more open, more curious, more inclusive place. I know I am not alone.”