What A “Beautiful Lack Of Fear” Can Do

A little over 18 months ago, KELOLAND News introduced you to a Sioux Falls girl with a journey and story all her own. Now, we have an update on what one kid’s potential can become when fostered by this community.

It’s graduation season. Kids are preparing for their next steps, and looking back at the path that led them to where they are today. Of course, no child reaches this point alone. Originally from Belize, Brittany Cornejo is in Sioux Falls on a student visa, living with Kim Bartling, whom she calls “a mom.”

“She means the same as my biological mom, because moms never give up on their children,” Cornejo said.

Dan Santella: Is she your daughter?

“Oh absolutely. I introduce her as my daughter,” Bartling said.

Cornejo will graduate from Sioux Falls Christian High School next month.

“I tell her almost daily when I take her to school, you’re the bravest person I know, I mean, it’s a lot to have to translate the world all day long. Everything’s new,” Bartling said.

Despite that, Cornejo has achieved success. 

“I was a state superior in oral interp for poetry,” Cornejo said.

“The greatest part of it is again, being able to watch her walk into an oral interp tournament of this past year where she was in finals of every tournament she walked into. And to win tournaments as a person where English is not her first language,” Bartling said.

Cornejo has spent time volunteering, too. She also makes and sells her own ceviche, a Latin American seafood dish. If you’d like to give it a try, search “Belizean Ceviche” on Facebook.

“I believe that I can be an entrepreneur, and instead of just sitting down, doing nothing, I got up and start selling my ceviche, because I need a way of also making money,” Cornejo said. 

After graduation, Cornejo is planning on joining Up With People. She’ll travel the world volunteering and performing musical shows. The organization told her that she is the first person ever accepted from Belize.

“Their mission statement is about hope and how we can use our voices and talent to inspire,” Cornejo said.

But she’ll have to find money to pay for it. Enter Bartling, who will produce a storytelling fundraising event on June 1 in downtown Sioux Falls at the Orpheum Theater.

“It is going to be a night of storytelling that people can submit their stories, and we will be choosing then six stories of people with a South Dakota connection, so the tag line is, South Dakota stories for the stage,” Bartling said.

Cornejo will be one of the people who shares a story that night. Bartling, too.

“Brittany’s got her South Dakota story for sure, and together we have a South Dakota story, and the other thing is there’s so many characters in it that we would be amiss to not talk about, I mean it’s just been, again, a cast of characters that have come into our life and have celebrated her as much as I have,” Bartling said.

Cornejo is planning on using what she learns with Up With People.

“I am going to use that to help me to, for my better communication skills to help me in the future, because I will need communication skills if I want to run for office,” Cornejo said. 

Not here, but in Belize.

“We know that America is an amazing place, but she has never said she’s going to stay here forever. She’s come here for the opportunity so that she can go back and make a difference in her own country, and I really love that,” Bartling said.

“I don’t believe my government is doing a great job, so I want to change that, and hopefully people will see that in me and vote for me later on in the future,” Cornejo said.

“She’s just, has this beautiful lack of fear that so many people tend to walk around in, that if I’m going to fail at this, I’m not going to do it at all,” Bartling said.

This community, here in the heartland of another continent, has helped make this Belizean who she is.

“She’s an investment of our family and our heart that is going to represent our entire community of Sioux Falls well in the world,” Bartling said.

“Now I know how to actually use my words to affect someone else in a good way,” Cornejo said.

When you walk out of the Sioux Falls home Bartling has opened up to Cornejo, you’ll see a sign.

“To the world you are one person, but to one person you may be the world, so she’s my world, and I’m her world, and so we just want to open it up for the next one,” Bartling said.

The door’s wide open.



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