The Wetfoot Blog

Sunday, July 3, 2011

At the Mic with Julio Guzman, Schuler Scholar student leader

Since 2002, Manito-wish has partnered with the Schuler Family Foundation's Schuler Scholar program to provide leadership training to the program participants. The Schuler Scholars have been selected as students with great academic and leadership potential who may not have the resources or the support networks in place that many other college-bound students can take for granted. Many of the Scholars are the first in their families to go to college. Through the Schuler program, the students get access to additional support during their high school careers--including tutoring sessions, mentoring groups, cultural exposure, community involvement opportunities, college visits. In exchange, the students maintain a high GPA and fulfill a variety of requirements--including the Manito-wish experience. The Scholars spend five days in Manito-wish's Leadership program and five days out on trail, learning to function as a group and taking the steps toward collaborative leadership.

For many Schuler Scholars, the Manito-wish experience is outside of their comfort zone, especially at first. But many of them find that Camp is a place where they really hit their stride--so much that a few of them come back after graduation for more, working as Student Leaders for groups of younger Scholars in their first Manito-wish experience. The Wetfoot sat down with Julio Guzman, a Schuler student leader from Waukegan, Illinois, who told us about his experience coming to Manito-wish for the first time as a participant and returning this year as a student leader.

Tell us about the first time you came to Manito-wish. What’s your most vivid memory?
My first time at Camp Manito-Wish was as a rising sophomore Schuler Scholar camper. My most vivid memory from that time is climbing the pamper pole. I had watched the other students in my small group climb it, and I was so nervous watching them. I didn’t decide to climb it until everyone else had gone. It was very challenging for me to work up the courage to even say I would climb it because I was (and still am) terrified of heights. I ended up climbing to the top of the pole and clinging on. I never stood up or jumped off to ring the bell. I did, however, sing “The Star Spangled Banner” while I was up there. It was a great experience, and I will never forget it. I’m glad that I was able to step out of my comfort zone with the support of my friends to challenge myself.

Why did you decide to come back as a student leader?
During my time in high school, following my Manito-wish experience, I realized the importance of positive role models in a teenager’s life, especially in my community. I decided that I wanted to be that role model for underclassmen. When the opportunity came up I applied to be a senior camp leader for the Schuler Scholar Leadership Camp. My experience as a senior camp leader has been the best that I have had this year. Not only did I have an amazing time with the incoming sophomore scholars, but this experience helped me realize that I want to continue working with high school students in leadership and youth development programs. My dream is to be trail leader for a group of Schuler Scholars at Manito-wish one day.

What was the thing that was most challenging for your group of Schuler scholars and for you while you were here? What was the most successful?
It was most challenging for me to watch the Schuler Scholars in my trail group struggle to complete the challenges in the all-day initiative. It was their time to work together, and we (the facilitators) could only offer a minimal amount of help. This initiative forced the scholars to work together in stressful situations. I was afraid that the scholars would dislike me as the senior leader on trail because of how difficult we made some of the challenges for them. Fortunately, they were able to overcome most of the challenges and not associate their frustrations with me.

Tell us about your trail experience. How did it change your group dynamics?
I think that trail was the most successful experience for my group of Schuler Scholars. They proved that they could manage to work together during the all-day initiative, and they were able to support that with their behavior on trail. They were quiet on the first day. They didn’t talk much on their own, but that changed by the second day. I was so impressed with how fast the group caught on to the daily routine of setting up camp, making a fire and making dinner. On the second morning, they decided that the scheduled campsite was too close. After unloading everything from the canoes and taking it to the campsite, they decided, unanimously, to keep paddling to a campsite that was a lot farther away. That day instantly changed from being the shortest day to the longest (we also added a ¼ mile portage to our day). We were able to see the most beautiful sights on our way to Lost Canoe, a campsite with amazing scenery. I’m pretty sure that my group of scholars would agree that we had the best experience that day. I enjoyed being able to talk and laugh with them that night about the day’s experience.

What’s next for you?
I will be attending Colgate University in Hamilton, New York this fall. I’m currently planning to study Environmental Studies there. It's a beautiful place, and I love the outdoors, so I'm really looking forward to being there.

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