Bella’s life was worthy of a documentary and Columbus High senior Sebastian Broche was ‘the perfect guy’ to direct it


Sebastian (left) and Alejandro have combined to win more than 60 awards for directing and graphics while working for the Christopher Columbus (High) News Network.

Originally, all Raymond Rodriguez-Torres was expecting was a public service announcement honoring his late daughter.

He – and his daughter’s memory – received more. Much more.

Rodriguez-Torres hoped the multi-media club at Christopher Columbus High School in Miami, his alma mater, could produce a PSA about Live Like Bella, the nonprofit that battles childhood cancer in honor of his daughter Bella, who died in 2013 when she was 10.

Omar Delgado, the teacher who oversees the club at Christopher Columbus, thought Bella’s story warranted more.

“I said, ‘This is a documentary, and I have the perfect guy to do it,’” Delgado said.

That would be Sebastian Broche, who recently graduated from the private Catholic high school after attending on Florida’s Family Empowerment Scholarship for Equal Opportunities (FES-EO) managed by Step Up For Students.

Sebastian led a team of 18 Columbus students that included his brother Alejandro and produced a moving 30-minute documentary. The project earned Sebastian a Suncoast Student Production Award (SSPA) from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for best director and an SSPA for Alejandro for best graphics.

It was also named the best documentary in the nation by Student Television Network.

It is expected to be released on Amazon Prime Video.

“What they put together is beyond what we could have ever been able to conceive, which was telling Bella’s story in the appropriate way. I think it was extremely touching,” Rodriguez-Torres said. “I’m so proud of these kids. It’s difficult for me to put it into words.”

“Live Like Bella” tells Bella’s story from when she was first diagnosed with Stage Four Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma, through her six-year fight and ends with her legacy, which is a nonprofit that has raised more than $37 million and provided more than $6.5 million in financial support for families in 49 states and 37 countries since its inception in 2013.

There are interviews with Bella’s family and doctors, videos and pictures of Bella, a clip of LeBron James and Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat, who wrote #LiveLikeBella on their sneakers during the 2013 NBA Eastern Conference Finals, and pictures of Bella that turned into sketches through the magic of editing. The documentary received a standing ovation from the overflow crowd at the Miracle Theater in Coral Cables after its premiere in March.

“It’s pretty powerful,” Sebastian said. “And that was the goal.”


Sebastian and Alejandro, who has attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attends Columbus on a Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities (FES-UA), are Miami natives but lived most of their lives in Costa Rica. The boys returned to Florida during their middle school years. By then, their parents had divorced and their dad, Alejandro Sr., had moved to Miami. He wanted Sebastian to attend Columbus. Their mom, Aimée Uriarte, agreed and moved with the boys to Miami.

The FES-EO made attending the private Catholic high school affordable.

Aimée flanked by her talented sons during the “Live Like Bella” premier.

Two years later, Aimée Uriarte wanted the same high-level academic opportunity for the youngest of her two sons, knowing that’s what Alejandro needed to develop his talents and self-confidence. As a single mother, Aimée was able to achieve that with the FES-UA scholarship.

“I think every family deserves the scholarships, regardless of income or their child’s conditions,” said Aimée Uriarte, the boys’ mother. “I think the whole country should emulate Florida.”

Sebastian admitted that the all-male student body, the strict dress code, and the challenging classes at Columbus took some getting used to.

“God works in mysterious ways,” he said. “The fact that I ended up here is probably one of my biggest blessings. It was definitely the school for me. I feel it has given me so many opportunities. It was something that I didn’t know I needed at the time, but now looking back, I can’t see myself going anywhere else.

“They make you a man and a man of principles, especially.”

Sebastian will attend Santa Fe College in Gainesville in the fall with the goal of transferring across town to the University of Florida, where he plans on majoring in journalism. His goal is to own a digital media company.

That’s a different career than what he expected when he entered Columbus as a freshman. Back then, Sebastian was interested in art and architecture. But a friend suggested he join Christopher Columbus News Network (CCNN), the student-run broadcast news program. Sebastian did and soon realized his talents included directing and producing programs and videos.

“I found out I was better at broadcasting than drawing,” he said.

Alejandro, 16, followed his brother to Columbus and joined CCNN, as well.

“I think they were both just trying to find their way and they were able to tap into a side of themselves they didn’t know they had,” Delgado said. “As a teacher that’s what you want to see. You want to see kids reach their full potential, and I really think that Sebastian and Ale are doing that.”

Alejandro’s plan is to attend Florida State University and pursue a career in film.

“Getting to see the level of national recognitions and not only academic, but also the human quality of teachers and mentors that Sebas and Ale have had access to at Columbus, is something I never imagined in my wildest dreams. Never” Aimée said. “I’m simply in awe and beyond proud of the men my sons are becoming.”

The brothers have combined to win more than 60 awards for directing and graphics. Sebastian earned a $4,500 per semester scholarship from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, received a $7,500 grant from Media for Minorities, and received the Mike Wallace Memorial Scholarship, worth $10,000, funded by CBS News.


Raymond Rodriguez-Torres and his wife, Shannah, were approached by several groups, including Netflix, about a documentary on Bella after the clips aired of NBA superstars paying tribute to their daughter. But the couple was uncomfortable with strangers coming to the house and taking videos of Bella’s bedroom.

Rodriguez-Torres is a 1994 graduate of Columbus and was a part of CCNN during its early years. The network of Columbus alumni in South Florida is very tight. It threw its support behind Bella’s fight against cancer and later behind the nonprofit. Word spread through the alumni circle and Rodriguez-Torres found himself meeting with school officials interested in working on his original plan of a PSA. Eventually, he met with Delgado, and Delgado sold him on his vision of a documentary produced by CCNN.

The Live Like Bella foundation has raised more than more than $37 million to fight childhood cancer.


“I knew we had one shot at this,” Rodriguez-Torres said. “Ultimately, I said, ‘This is the way God and Bella wanted it. They want a bunch of high school kids doing something nobody expects.’ Little did I know what was coming.”

Delgado did. Sebastian was the producer and editor. He made the storyboards and came up with the questions to be asked during the interviews. Alejandro worked on graphics and animation.

“He’s a really creative kid,” Sebastian said of his brother. “He’s a lot more creative than I am. Give him a camera and give him an idea, and that kid will blow your mind.”

Sebastian learned of Bella’s powerful story during a meeting with Shannah and Raymond Rodriguez-Torres. Sebastian, who already produced two documentaries for CCNN, knew it would be his biggest challenge. But he said he wasn’t intimidated.

“I knew how strong of a story it was,” Sebastian said, “and during the whole meeting I was thinking, ‘OK, here’s how I want to tell it.’ ”

Nearly six months later, the documentary was ready. Nearly everyone who saw the finished product was amazed that it was produced by a high school senior directing a team of fellow classmates.

Nearly everyone, because Delgado was not amazed.

“Sebastian impresses me every single day,” Delgado said. “To see who he has become in the last four years is something that I am eternally proud and grateful for.

“But to tell you I was surprised, I wish I could because I missed that feeling of being surprised by Sebastian. I don’t have it anymore because it’s something I expect from him, because he’s such an amazing human being and he just keeps on producing.”


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BY Roger Mooney

Roger Mooney is the marketing communications manager for Step Up For Students. He joined the organization after a career as a sports and features writer for several Florida newspapers, including the Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times.

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