Last year was an extremely hard year for everyone. Some were more fortunate than others and decided to use their blessings to help those less fortunate in 2020. Ten students from Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School exemplified the good that comes from making lemonade out of lemons.

According to a recent press release, the “Be Like Brit Foundation was established by Cherylann and Len Gengel to honor the life of their daughter, Britney Gengel who died tragically in the 2010 earthquake in Haiti along with approximately 300,000 others.” Within two years, a home in Britney’s name was built to care for the children of Grand-Goâve, Haiti.

It was through a SkillsUSA state competition that Advisor and Dental Assisting Instructor Mrs. Beverly Rebelo learned about the Be Like Brit Foundation. The Massachusetts chapter of SkillsUSA has been in partnership with Be Like Brit for several years. According to the release, “the Be Like Brit Foundation began building houses for Haitian families in need as part of their ‘Bristionary’ trips to Haiti after Hurricane Matthew in 2016.”

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During these trips, groups spend seven days building a home for a Haitian family in the mornings and working with the children at the orphanage in the evenings. Rebelo had the idea to take 10 students to Haiti and build a home. She presented the idea to GNBVT administration and sought out the help of Mr. Henry DeGrace, a Diesel Service Technology instructor and Military Veteran with personal knowledge of Haiti and its people.

After receiving final approval from the School Committee, all sophomores were provided with a flyer at the completion of their ELA MCAS testing in the spring of 2019. An informational session was held shortly after and over 60 students attended the meeting, and 53 of them applied for the opportunity to take part in this life-changing experience.

According to the release, students who were interested were asked to write an essay expressing their interest and what they’ve learned about the Haitian people and what helping the underserved means to them. Ten of the 53 students were chosen based on their essay, academic performance, attendance and discipline records, willingness to be a member of the SkillsUSA organization, and teacher recommendations.

The following students, who are now in their senior year were chosen:

  1. Jaydian Cepeda - Diesel Service Technology
  2. Tyler Soares - Carpentry
  3. Madison Tavares - Legal and Protective Services
  4. Victoria Fernandes - Legal and Protective Services
  5. Chelsea Martinez - Medical Assisting
  6. Mackenzie Raposo - Business Technology
  7. Amber Conroy - Architectural Drafting
  8. Alexia Barboza - Early Childhood Education
  9. Heather Belanger - Welding Technology
  10. Amanda Albino - Information Support Services and Networking

The trip was originally scheduled for the week of March 29, 2020. According to the release, the cost to fund travel and lodging expenses totaled $23,400 and the money was raised through the help of many sponsors, and various fundraising events held between April of 2019 and February of 2020.

Unfortunately, COVID happened and the trip was postponed indefinitely. However, Rebelo, DeGrace, and the students who were to attend felt it best to donate the money raised to the foundation in lieu of the trip.

"According to Ms. Gengel, the $23,400 will be used to further advance Brit’s Academy. Although the group could not physically go to Haiti as planned, these teachers and students still leave the artisan imprint in Haiti through their hard work and dedication to Be Like Brit and the foundation’s mission."

These students and their advisors should be proud knowing that they still gave what they were able to in order to support the cause they felt so strongly about.

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