An Orphan’s Tale of Service

By Bella Briones | Finalist Miss New Jersey 2017, Marketing and Health Care Analyst


 “There is not a single condition of life that is entirely unnecessary; there is not one hour’s experience but what is beneficial to all those who make it their study and aim to improve upon the experience they gain.” (Brigham Young, JD 9:292.)


“Growing up was tough!” – I am sure many have heard many say that, however, I’m still alive and I’ve conquered the struggles of my trouble-bearing childhood. Thankfully, I was blessed with the greatest, most intelligent adopted father a girl could ever ask for. From his teachings, one of which remains deep in my heart, I learned to remain confident through my education. My father has always said: “People can take anything they want from you, but your intelligence will remain forever.” The confidence will never stray regardless of what happens in your journey through life. For these reasons education is important to me.

I joined Shashamane Sunrise with the hope of making a difference in someone’s life. Shashamane Sunrise’s mission is to support children’s education in developing countries, a story line that reminds me of how my education started. I have had the opportunity to travel to Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica. I left the comforts of home to bring notebooks, give speeches, and remind these children that if you remain true to your goals, they very well may come true. In these countries many children are toiling to chase their dreams, all starting from a pencil and notebook. They are hoping to accomplish their goals of becoming future attorneys, doctors, politicians and other professionals.


To be fair, I had no idea what I would witness upon arriving to these schools in the Caribbean. I had never imaged that I would have to ride a motorcycle, holding on for my dear life, on rugged terrain to get to The Marion School- a school located in a small rural hamlet in the Corail district of Grand’Anse department, Haiti. Once I arrived at The Marion School, reality hit me. Students had very little, but they still made it their divine mission to get to school. These children come from families which survive on less than $1 per day and travel, sometimes barefoot, to their school which at the time only had one wall. I also had opportunities to travel to Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica. Students in these countries did not have much, but they knew one thing- that education is one tool with which to change the trajectory of their lives.

While on tour, much of my work focused on determining the needs of the schools Shashamane Sunrise works with. I spoke with administrators and faculty regarding their capital needs, and the programs they would like to implement to enhance the quality of education, making their schools centers of excellence. One of my key responsibilities was to formulate a fiscal plan and assess results of students for the year.

I remember taking a picture with a sweet little girl, aged 8 years-old, who was so excited to be the valedictorian of her class. I hope I positively impacted each little boy or girl that I met in some way, through information I shared or the enthusiasm I showed. I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to represent Shashamane Sunrise and the role I played in the lives of many children – the opportunity to give them the tools for what will eternally change their lives – an education. These students have a desire for schooling and education, and I am very grateful that Shash could play even a small role in their achievements, which they can take throughout their lives.


Bella Briones is a Marketing and Healthcare Analyst and is currently in her final year at the Fairleigh Dickinson University where she is pursuing her MBA. In the future she plans to become an attorney.

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