Alumni Spotlight: Marlissa Collier


Marlissa is a 25 year old young professional from Los Angeles, CA. Marlissa attended California State University, Long Beach and in 2010 she received her bachelor's of science degree in Construction Engineering Management. She then went on to become a Market Analyst for Southern California Gas Company. She has recently accepted admission at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX where she will pursue her MBA with concentrations in Marketing and Strategy. She is both a Cox School of Business scholarship recipient and Forte Fellow.

Why did you decide to study abroad with Colline Foundation?

On that Tuesday in January of 2010 the photos of destruction on CNN forced tears into my eyes and I thought “no FEMA, no emergency response service, and no evacuation plan.” Photographs of crumbled buildings, limp bodies and newly orphaned children flashed across the screen and I prayed a prayer for the few who were shown and the millions who were hidden in the background. In the weeks to come, I watched as nations across the globe pledged funds, relief efforts and continued thoughts. But soon Haiti faded into the background and seemed forgotten. I decided to find a way to join the effort of bringing aid to the Haitian people. I stumbled across the Colline Foundation’s website and began to look into the volunteer program. Jimmy responded almost instantly and I booked a flight to Port au Prince.

What made this experience unique and special?

To my surprise, that week in Haiti proved to be the best trip I had ever taken. That week I became friends with people from every corner of America because we shared a common bond. We were strangers away from home and gathered for one purpose: to make a difference. Each time I’ve traveled I’ve learn more of their language, culture, political environment and economy. And each time I’ve departed I’ve left a piece of my heart with a little boy named Jeremy, an orphan, who at first meeting grabbed my hand and held it for what seemed like a week straight. I am still friends with some of the people I met on my trips to Haiti. The experience was priceless.

What is one piece of advice you'd give future Colline Foundation students?

Visiting Haiti made me aware of the need to foster global awareness so that we can contribute to the world through education, understanding, compassion, and tolerance for people from other cultures. Discrimination, stereotypes and hate are all born from pure ignorance! The only way to force ignorance out of its place is to implement understanding. I would advise future Colline Foundation students to go in with a open mind and a willing heart. There is so much to learn in Haiti about the human spirit, the love for ones fellowman and the brilliance that is Haitian history. Take in everything. From the food and music to the language and dance. Haiti is an amazing place.

If you could do-over one thing, what would it be?

If I could do one thing over it would be to visit Haiti earlier. Before the earthquake turned the attention of the world to Haiti. I would have followed these words years before my trip:

At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by ‘I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was naked and you clothed me, I was homeless and you took me in.’ Hungry not only for bread - but hungry for love. Naked not only for clothing - but naked for human dignity and respect. Homeless not only for want of a room of bricks - but homeless because of rejection.

Mother Teresa