A Unique Experience: Cadet Guillermo Castillo

Leadership is when someone is followed because of his knowledge and his responsibilities.
Cadet Guillermo Castillo, Guatemala

Guillermo Castillo and María Gabriela “Gaby” Asensio had two goals for their 12-year-old son when they enrolled him in a semester at St. John’s: To provide him with an international educational experience, and to re-engage him in his academics.

Now back home in Guatemala, Guillermo “Mito” Castillo, one semester, is not enough. What was intended to be a brief international study opportunity, has transformed Mito into a young man with the highest aspirations

“I want to go back in eighth grade,” says Mito excitedly. “I made a promise with my parents that I would have good grades so I can go back.”

For Mito’s parents, they see today how Mito’s time at St. John’s has resulted in positive changes in his discipline and focus and has opened more opportunities for him than they could have ever imagined.

Seeking an International Educational Experience

“We saw Mito sometimes showing a lack of interest at school and in sports,” said Guillermo.

Gaby adds, “He was no longer motivated in sports, where he used to compete on a national and international level, he just stopped competing and believing in himself. His grades were dropping in school, and he was comfortable with that. He wouldn’t go the extra mile in class and sports. I was really worried about him, because he was very competitive and one day he just stopped.”

“We realized he needed to continue believing in himself, get more discipline and structure. So we thought to send him to an exchange student program and a military school was a great option and also a great opportunity,” said Guillermo and Gaby. “Sending your child in middle school is not easy. We are a tight family, so emotionally speaking it was not easy for us.”

Not only did Guillermo and Gaby want to find the right military boarding school for Mito that would offer him a safe, structured educational environment, but they also needed to find a school that could teach Mito his Guatemalan curriculum, which meant sixth grade Spanish for native speakers, and Social Studies as taught in Guatemala.

Excelling Academically

In order to accommodate Mito’s need for his individualized academic plan, Mito’s schedule was adapted so that he could spend back-to-back periods with Mr. Leo Alvarado, the school’s Spanish teacher, soccer coach, and a native of Mexico, on the Guatemalan Spanish and Social Studies curriculum. Mr. Alvarado remained in weekly correspondence with Mito’s school to receive and review coursework and provide updates on Mito’s grades and his progress. Mr. Alvarado was impressed by Mito’s commitment to his unique curriculum, which enabled him to hold Mito to the highest standards.

“I wasn’t sure if a sixth grader would struggle to take these two classes in one period,” said Mr. Alvarado. “I kept high expectations for Mito. He was very mature. If I told him we were falling behind he would say, ‘Okay, give me the work, Coach.’ He had a very positive attitude and worked very hard.”

During his semester at St. John’s, Mr. Alvarado was not only a vital instructor in Mito’s educational plan but an essential resource and mentor as Mito adapted to life in America.

“Señor Alvarado was a good teacher,” said Mito. “He did as much as possible to help me with my grades. He helped me a lot to change from Guatemala to the USA and helped me to learn to communicate and make friends.”

Mr. Alvarado was also a vital resource for Guillermo and Gaby during their time away from their son.

“Leo was my link to St. John’s,” said Gaby. “Sometimes I have trouble with my English so if I have something to ask in Spanish I could ask him. He would help me a lot with everything I needed. I admire that he never let Mito fall behind.”

Not only did Mito excel in both his U.S. and Guatemalan coursework, his time at St. John’s taught him valuable lessons about leadership.

“Leadership is when someone is followed because of his knowledge and his responsibilities,” said Mito. “St. John’s taught me to be respectful and organized, to be happy even if something is hard, to have discipline, and to be a leader.”

A Commitment to Return to St. John’s

Today, as Mito prepares to enter seventh grade back in Guatemala, he is committed to holding up his end of his agreement with Guillermo and Gaby—to earn good grades so that he can return to St. John’s in as an eighth grader. For Guillermo and Gaby, seeing their son transform from a young man who had lost his competitive spirit to a young man who is committed to achieving the highest standards, reaffirms that their decision to send Mito to St. John’s, was the right decision.

“Mito’s experience at St. John’s was more than we expected,” said Gaby. “It’s hard to send your son to a military boarding school, especially when he is the youngest and smallest. Seeing how Mito has changed, we love the school and are completely committed to it. I am very proud of the school and my son. Today, we have St. John’s in our hearts.”

According to Guillermo and Gaby, their son returned home with a mature, gentlemanly attitude, a more demonstrative appreciation for his family, and a greater appreciation for the value of hard work.

“We didn’t imagine Mito would learn so many lessons so quickly,” said Gaby. “Other mothers here in Guatemala used to ask me how I could send my son away from home, but they too have seen the changes in Mito since he’s returned and they are thrilled for us and impressed by his behavior.”

As difficult as it was to send Mito to St. John’s for Guillermo and Gaby, it was just as difficult for Mito to say goodbye at the end of his semester.

“The day came when we had to pick him up, and it was hard,” said Guillermo. “He hugged all his friends, and the first thing he said when he got back in the car was, ‘I want to go back to St. John’s.’ He is so excited when he talks about St. John’s. Ten days after he returned home, we had a party at our house, and he insisted on wearing his St. John’s uniform because he wanted to represent St. John’s. I’m just so happy and thankful. It was overwhelming what we got from St. John’s.”

Looking to the Future and a Return to the Brotherhood

Not only do Guillermo, Gaby, and Mito intend for Mito to return to St. John’s for high school, today they are hopeful that Mito will earn a college education in the United States as well.

“We were told during the admissions process that 90 percent of St. John’ students go on to university and that a big percentage receive scholarships,” said Guillermo. “We attended graduation this past year and as the twelfth graders walked across the stage to receive their diplomas and it was announced where they were going after graduation and if they earned a scholarship, Gaby turned to me and said, ‘What’s written in the booklet is true.’ We have an opportunity to send our son back to St. John’s and they will give him an opportunity to earn a scholarship and attend college in the U.S.’ So, that is our plan right now.”