By MARINA WATERS
When David Crockett High School senior Josh Bruni walked into Taco Bell for his shift on Monday, he had no idea his family, friends, coworkers, a celebratory cake and a giant check for $10,000 would be waiting on him.
Bruni was awarded the money through Taco Bell’s Live Más Scholarship, which offers anywhere from $5,000 to $25,000 worth of scholarship money to 50 of the restaurants’ employees who applied for the program.
“I didn’t know this was happening at all. I was super shocked,” Bruni said. “I’m super thankful for the opportunity to work for them and to get the scholarship. I’m grateful for Taco Bell and what they stand for, ‘live más’, live more out of every day with a passion and with a twist.”
To enter, Bruni had to create a two-minute video detailing his passion. And now, the scholarship money will go towards Bruni’s dream of studying marine science; Bruni plans to attend Costal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina where he will enter the marine science program, which has been a long-time passion for the high school senior.
“They have the best marine science studies in the eastern United States,” Bruni said. “It’s only a few minutes away from the beach, first of all, but they have the best equipment, you can take a shark trip to the Bahamas every year, they have their own island called Waties island, and 90 percent of the research and studying in the classroom is all hands-on. And that’s what it takes for me to learn. They have every thing I need, everything I want to do and every thing that’s on my bucket list.”
Though Bruni will be spending much of his time studying marine life in and out of the water at Coastal Carolina, the soon-to-be Crockett graduate also hopes to eventually land a internship at the nearby Ripley’s Aquarium. He’s also hoping to continue taking photos at a local newspaper in South Carolina as he did for this hometown newspaper, the Herald & Tribune.
However, Bruni also plans to continue working for the organization who recently chipped in to help him reach his college dreams.
“I absolutely do (plan on working at Taco Bell through college). I’ve already talked to a Taco Bell down there in Myrtle Beach. My manager’s going to try to get me a job there,” Bruni said. “They always hire the nicest, most energizing people in the world. Every time I go here, I always have energy even after a tiring morning or a tiring day, when I get to Taco Bell, I immediately have energy. It’s just the people here. I love it.”
Though the connection to marine science and Taco Bell might not be obvious to most, Bruni feels he shares the restaurant’s motto, “live mas,” in his own life.
“I also love what Taco Bell stands for. ‘Living mas’ can apply to anyone’s life. I try to live more out of every day,” Bruni said. “After a long day of just working at Taco Bell, I love to go hiking in the mountains or out to the river to fish. I absolutely love it. So Taco Bell is live more, live mas and that’s what I stand for.”
For Bruni, he finds more to life in the mountains of East Tennessee. He also said that after attending the National Envirothon in Canada in 2016, he found that aquatic ecology could be tied into his love for nature, thus leading him to marine science.
“I’ve always had a connection to nature. I’ve had problems, especially in high school, and I figured out to get the stress off my back, I’d go to nature,” Bruni said, “whether that be hiking or writing articles for the Herald & Tribune or taking photos of nature while fishing or hiking.
“I just kind of have that connection also to aquatic ecology. Ever since (Envirothon), I kind of really just fell in love with it so I kind of put those two together and marine science was perfect.”
And now, partially through striving to get out into nature and working hard behind the counter at a local Taco Bell, Bruni will soon get to call his aquatic dreams a reality.
“Through academic common market, it’s in-state (tuition), but the college can’t offer any grants or scholarships to help with that. That was a huge financial problem,” Bruni said. “But this will help me a lot. This almost makes the final decision for me to go Costal Carolina University.”