Gerardo "Junior" Samonte, B.S. in Journalism – Major in Public Relations (2017)
SRC Patron [2012-17]; Outdoor Program Participant [2013-17]; Video Attendant (2015-17)
Physical fitness has always been important to journalism/public relations graduate, Gerardo “Junior” Samonte, and during his five years at BGSU, Samonte found a way to combine his love of physical fitness, adventure, and PR as a Recreation and Wellness facility user, program participant, and student employee.
Growing up, Samonte was accustomed to participating in a range of sports. “I’ve always had an active lifestyle, and I was in a lot of sports,” he explained. “I was a swimmer, I did gymnastics, I played tennis and ran track, I even dabbled in cross country and martial arts.”
From doing all the sports in high school and transitioning into college to nothing, I picked up lifting and was hooked. However, after graduating from high school in 2012 and transitioning from his home in Cleveland to college life at BGSU, his involvement in organized sports sharply declined, and Samonte felt something was missing in his life. Searching for an activity to fill the void, Samonte discovered weight lifting at the Student Recreation Center (SRC). “From doing all the sports in high school and transitioning into college to nothing, I picked up lifting and was hooked” he said.
As a freshman coming from a small, private school to BGSU, the Rec Center was like a playground to me! I’m a big kid at heart, and there were just so many toys! Samonte recalled the excitement he felt when he first started going to the Student Recreation Center. “I was never exposed to that type of environment,” he said. “As a freshman coming from a small, private school to BGSU, the Rec Center was like a playground to me! I’m a big kid at heart, and there were just so many toys!”
Samonte quickly settled into a routine, and during his time at BGSU he could usually be found five days a week lifting weights or running. “Working out is more of a therapeutic thing for me,” he said. “When I work out I really focus to connect my mind and body together––it’s an awesome feeling!”
Samonte also expressed his appreciation of the support he received from the SRC community. “If you’re working out around the same time every day, you see the same people, and you start to make friends,” he explained. “Everyone’s really supportive, and that’s a big deal. Everyone’s pushing you to do better.” He emphasized that this sense of community doesn’t stay contained within the walls of the SRC; instead, users are able to find common ground outside the SRC through their shared experiences working out.
Although Samonte dedicated a significant amount of his free time to working out at the SRC, he also found time to pursue his love of outdoor recreation through BGSU Outdoor Program activities. In high school, Samonte had enjoyed hiking and camping, and was excited when he heard about the Outdoor Program. “When I found out about the Outdoor Program, I was really ecstatic about it because I never knew colleges did that kind of stuff,” he said. “I definitely tried to get in every kind of opportunity that I could.”
With the Outdoor Program, you are surrounded by BG people, but you’re able to travel to different places and experience different environments, people, and cultureHe began his involvement with the Outdoor Program by participating in a whitewater rafting class, and when he later heard about a rock climbing trip in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge, Samonte jumped at the opportunity to participate. “I started doing more with the OP to experience activities you can’t do in BG,” he explained. “With the Outdoor Program, you are surrounded by BG people, but you’re able to travel to different places and experience different environments, people, and cultures––especially the rock climbing community. In the climbing community, the people are very open and you can just be yourself because there’s not really any pressure,” he said.
After attending several trips as a participant, Samonte was persuaded to step out of his comfort zone and volunteered as a Freshman Wilderness Experience trip leader during the summer of 2015. “The Freshman Wilderness Experience was definitely one of my favorite experiences at BGSU,” he said.
During the seven-day trip, Samonte backpacked with a group of eight new freshmen and three other trip leaders roughly 30 miles along the Appalachian Trail. For him, it was an opportunity for self-reflection and leadership skill development. “You really think more when you’re in the outdoors, and in this case, you have no one around you except for strangers. However, you get close and learn to trust each other––that was one of my biggest takeaways.”
You learn from somebody and they learn from you, and you can always turn to them for advice. That’s something that I took away from the Outdoor Program. An outgoing person by nature, Samonte explained how he used his people skills to make the participants feel more comfortable: “I’m an easily approachable person who can talk to anybody about anything, and I used that to my advantage to help break the ice and make it more comfortable for students to speak out about anything they had on their mind.” He also credits this experience with teaching him both interpersonal and leadership skills and providing him with the opportunity to mentor incoming freshmen. “You learn from somebody and they learn from you, and you can always turn to them for advice. That’s something that I took away from the Outdoor Program.”
Initially hired in Fall 2015 as a video attendant, Samonte combined his love of physical fitness and public relations by promoting the department’s programs and services through social media, videography, photography, and public outreach events. “The outdoors and video and photography for me, they correlate,” he explained. “I like to capture those moments I feel anywhere I go traveling, I try to bring my Go Pro with me. It’s good to document and relive memories through the videos.”
While working at Recreation and Wellness, Samonte also served on the Student Employee Board during the 2016-17 academic year as the marketing representative and fundraising chair, and took advantage of many professional development opportunities by attending on-campus Student Development and Leadership sessions and area conferences and by participating in the department research symposium.
I developed myself through all the experiences and unique opportunities that the department has to offer.Samonte reflected on his experiences with Recreation and Wellness: “I love all of the support that I received from Recreation and Wellness,” he said. “I feel that every experience I’ve had left me with a more positive mindset. Whether it was personal or professional, I developed myself through all the experiences and unique opportunities that the department has to offer. Being involved is something that I highly recommend. It helped me create new friendships, professional connections, and some of the best memories I have had while being a student at BGSU.”