Adopted Samoan student athlete graduates in social work, plays on volleyball team with no previous experience

Written by: 
Adam Case


After being on island for four years and only returning once to her home in Las Vegas, senior Talia Hope Sua Barnes is excited to start an internship in Vegas working with an adoption agency at the end of this summer.

Talia, a social work major from Nevada, is full Samoan but grew up in Las Vegas. “I was adopted when I was a baby, and all my siblings are also adopted. We are a band of misfits is what we call it. So I represent two names: my birth name Sua and my adopted name Barnes,” she said.

Originally planning to be an exercise sports science major, Barnes said she took the required biology class and hated it. “I tried to stay clear from social work because there was a lot of personal things for me, with my siblings, adoption, and all those things being so big in my life. I didn’t really feel like it would be the best thing, but I prayed about it and decide it was right."

Barnes said she chose BYU-Hawaii because she wanted to get in touch with her Samoan roots. “I wanted to come to BYU-Hawaii to learn more about my Samoan culture and also to meet people who knew my birth family. I actually got to meet a lot of people that knew my birth family here.”

Having been an athlete her whole life and playing soccer in high school, she said another reason she wanted to attend BYUH was to play sports. She said, “I honestly didn’t know I was going to play volleyball before I got here. I was actually looking to be a goalie for the soccer team. I was talking to the soccer coach, but I just went and started playing with the volleyball team. The coach offered me to go play with them so I took it.

“It was the best experience. I played soccer mostly throughout my life. I was always into competitive sports and everything. I started playing volleyball here for the first time. I just caught on. I don’t know if that is normal, but I worked really hard for it.” 

During her first season, the volleyball team took second place in a national championship in Iowa. She said, “Being able to play on such an amazing team with such amazing teammates was incredible. It was a humbling journey being one of two freshmen on the team.”

Due to injury, Barnes only played volleyball for two seasons, but she ended up starting a volleyball club on campus. “It was really cool starting it up but also hard. It was tough to find people who were willing to help us. Everyone loved it though. We had a lot of the community members come too, so it was fun to interact with them.

Barnes said her advice for students is to “keep on going and stay strong. It is super hard to get through school, but you can do it. Don’t take breaks because it makes it harder. Just keep on going and you will get there. It is worth it! I defiantly had times where I didn’t want to keep going. I’ve been through it all. I’ve called my parents and said, ‘Book me a ticket, I want to go home.’ They would just say, ‘Keep on going, you got this.’ We all have a breakdown, but I got through it.”

Talia said she is grateful for the social work program, her peers who went through the program with her, and her parents for supporting her.

Date Published: 
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Last Edited: 
Wednesday, June 14, 2017

NOTE: This story's online publishing was delayed because it was featured in the June 2017 print issue.