Today Shauntay Hinton is an accomplished actress, spokesperson and role model. She was Miss USA in 2002. She leads what many would call a life of glamour in Los Angeles where she is host of the Fine Living Channel’s travel and lifestyle series, “We Live Here.”
But it wasn’t always that way. Her early years were marked by the economic and emotional impact of being raised in a single parent home when her parents separated.
What made the difference for Shauntay was her involvement with ChildFund International. She was a sponsored child for about three years through Project Brickfire, located in rural Starkville, Miss., and participated in its after-school program until she completed high school in 1997.
|Shauntay Hinton as a
child when she
Project Brickfire operated as part day-care/part community center with programs to promote the educational and social development of children.
“Through Project Brickfire, ChildFund helped kids like me do more with less by providing an affordable alternative to pre-school and kindergarten,” said Shauntay.
ChildFund, Shauntay said, helped plant the seeds for her dreams and for the dreams of others.
“In America today, there are still many areas like Starkville that are considered not-quite mainstream, where dreaming to be the next president of the United States or even Miss USA would remain only dreams if not for programs that encourage achievement, learning and expression early in life that ChildFund makes possible.”
With programs emphasizing the arts and creative expression like plays, field trips and guest speakers, ChildFund helped Shauntay develop self confidence in front of an audience early on.
“Without question, my start as a sponsored child was essential to shaping my path toward a career in broadcasting because of the encouragement, instruction and support I received from the staff of Project Brickfire,” she said.
One of Shauntay’s earliest roles happened when she was about five – before she even knew of Oprah Winfrey. She performed as the host of a talk show who interviewed historical figures, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Dr. George Washington Carver regarding their historic contributions to American history.
It was one of many programs supported by Project Brickfire.
For her “graduation” ceremony, Shauntay’s teacher cast her as a belly dancer and as Gladys Knight singing one of her biggest hits. For a while, Shauntay also wanted to be a dancer and a singer.
“Because of the support I received from my teachers early on at Brickfire and the response from the audience, I knew I would grow up to work in broadcast media.”
Shauntay returns to Starkville at least twice a year in large part for “some good Southern cooking at [her] mom’s.” She is encouraged by the changes she sees but she is also reminded that the commitment of ChildFund to the local community is more vital than ever.
"ChildFund provided the resources for early life programs that were foundational to my dreams becoming a reality,” she said. “I think there will always be a need for that.”