Skip to main content

South Valley Journal

Outstanding Riverton High graduate: choreographs her life to make a difference

Jun 01, 2021 11:09AM ● By Jet Burnham

Isabella DeJesus is the 2021 Dance Sterling Scholar state runner-up. (Photo by Samantha Little)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

With a near-perfect grade point average (3.945) while taking 10 advanced placement classes (one of only three seniors to do so), Isabella DeJesus excels in leadership roles, is dedicated to helping others and is passionate about the art of dance. She was selected as Riverton High School’s Dance Sterling Scholar and represented Jordan District at the state level of the competition for outstanding high school seniors where she was named the state runner-up in her division.

“Bella exemplifies the moniker of sterling scholar by being incredibly well-rounded,” RHS sterling scholar adviser Adrian Ramjoue said. “Bella is not focused on being the best in one field, but becoming exemplary in many fields in order to achieve her goals.”

DeJesus has challenged herself academically to prepare to become a doctor.

“Her academic schedule is one of the most difficult I’ve ever seen and she devotes herself to making sure she is the best student possible,” RHS dance company director Brynn Perkins said. “She is resilient and faces challenges with a goal-oriented mindset.”

For the three years she has been in RHS’s Dance Company, DeJesus has exemplified a strong work ethic and a humility to learn from others, making her one of Perkins’ most well-rounded dancers.

DeJesus has taken leadership roles within Dance Company seriously. This year, as vice president, she organized wildly successful COVID-safe fundraising activities for Silver Rush, the school’s annual charity drive.

“In all of my years coaching, I have never seen a student take on this much responsibility and succeed,” Perkins said. “She is the type of person that serves out of true love and charity and not because it looks good on a resume.” 

DeJesus has been an active member of National Honor Society and a volunteer academic tutor. She arranged many service activities for Dance Company and coordinated schedules for dancers to teach regular dance therapy classes at Kauri Sue Hamilton School to students with special needs.

“What impresses me most about Bella is her ability to see beyond herself, circumstances and environment, a rare ability for many high schoolers,” Ramjoue said.

Instead of accepting a lavish party and gifts for her quinceanera, DeJesus collected $700 in gift cards from friends and family to benefit Women of the World, a nonprofit organization located in South Salt Lake, which helps forcibly displaced women become functioning and active members in their communities.

Women of the World Founder and Executive Director Samira Harnish said the gift cards helped 28 women buy basic needs.

“I was very touched by Isabella and her thinking of helping displaced women from all over the world, here in Utah,” she said.

DeJesus regularly hosts drives to collect items, such as hygiene products, for the organization. She and Harnish both believe that serving locally can have a global impact.

“I think that's my proudest accomplishment, being able to make a difference within my own community through serving those women,” DeJesus said. “Really, the most rewarding and fulfilling service that you ever have is within your own community.” 

DeJesus discovered her love of dance just six years ago. It has become an outlet to help her through difficult times, such as moving to a new state and the death of her beloved nana.

The piece she choreographed for her sterling scholar audition was inspired by her nana, a hardworking, single mother who valued education and who struggled with addiction later in life.

“I just remember wanting to be exactly like her and wanting to work just as hard as she worked,” DeJesus said. “I've been given opportunities to be in a little bit better position than she was, and so I just want to take that position of privilege that I'm in, and apply the same work ethic that she applied, and be able to make her proud, and be able to be successful in everything that I do.”

DeJesus is headed to SUU, studying to become an OBGYN and hoping to be on their dance team.