Ten years ago Michael Castronuovo never imagined he’d become a specialist in leadership. Then again, he never imagined he’d have travel adventures, mentoring and scholarship support that would enable him to become the successful person he is today.
The youngest of three children of a single mom living in Clifton, New Jersey, Michael said he was painfully shy and introverted. His mom, Lisa, knew she needed to find an alternative to the very large public high school his older siblings had attended in order for Michael to flourish. Her determined search for alternatives led to Tri-County and a scholarship enabling him to attend DePaul Catholic High School in Wayne for four years.
In private school Michael was able explore his interests and be recognized for his academic achievements and fine character. In the summer of 2006 he was nominated by his teacher for his leadership skills, and then selected by People to People as a student ambassador, enabling him to travel to Australia and the following year to Europe.Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef and other activities provided wonderful experiences, but it was the work experiences and relationships he developed during these times that really helped build his confidence and leadership abilities, allowing him to blossom. “Travel opened me up…without it I really wouldn’t be who I am today,” says Michael.
In addition to his supportive mom, Michael credits Tri-County board members with influencing him to take his first travel opportunity. “I remember going to a Tri-County dinner in my junior year in high school where several board members offered me words of encouragement, influencing my decision to travel,” says Michael.
After graduating, Michael attended Saint Leo University in Florida where he maintained a 3.75 GPA, and graduated with a BA degree in Criminal Justice. During this time, he worked as a Student Assistant for Student Life-Student Services, Campus Activities, Residence Life and Admissions, among other activities. His St. Leo’s trusted mentor and Leadership Studies professor,Dr. Ashlee Castle, said, “You could tell Michael was committed. He was there to learn and did everything he could to become a better person. His morals, values, integrity,and character are the highest.”
With Dr. Castle’s encouragement, Michael moved to California, where he completed a Master of Arts in Leadership Studies at the University of San Diego. His focus? International Education and Character Education, naturally.
Michael now works for San Diego State University Research Foundation’s American Language Institute. He loves his role of Homestay Coordinator in which he facilitates the placement of international students into local private homes for a few months at a time.
Through all his experiences, Michael knows how pivotal Tri-County was in opening doors for him and keeping him grounded. “Without the Tri-County I wouldn’t have gotten through high school. They were the only other support I had at that time besides my mom. It was great to know that there were wonderful people supporting me, something for which I will be forever grateful” says Michael.