Michael Guggenheim: A Quest for Adventure

Prudential Award Pic 2.0As the group gathered around the dining hall table, spring break plans quickly became the topic of discussion, as our much-needed break from schoolwork was quickly approaching. Seeing friends, relaxing, and spending time with family were common plans, until Michael volunteered his plans to go scuba diving in Belize with his family. The group was simultaneously shocked and intrigued, as they had no idea Michael even possessed the proper scuba certification to embark on such an adventure.

“Guggz has a story for everything” says Jenna Holtz with an incredulous smile on her face, and the rest of the group nods in agreement. Michael Guggenheim, endearingly refered to as “Guggz” by friends, is not only a wonderful storyteller, but derives his stories from a young life filled with adventure. At only 19 years of age, Michael’s stories of exploration are unparalleled by his peers, and many lightheartedly refer to him as “the most interesting man in the world”. Not only does Michael lead such an adventurous life, he has overcome many obstacles, showing strength perseverance, and determination to live life to the fullest.

Yet, perhaps Guggz’s best quality is not his arsenal of experiences, but that he genuinely cares about his friends and their stories as well. Upon returning from spring break, Michael did not brag about his worldly experiences, and made sure to ask about everyone else’s spring break. As floormates, Michael and I have grown to be close friends, and although my spring break stories paled in comparison to his, he remained attentive and intrigued. I have had the pleasure of learning not about not only his travels and successes, but also the adversity he has overcome.

In his academic career, Michael has overcome many obstacles, but has proved to be an intelligent, hardworking individual. At a young age, Michael struggled with very bad handwriting, which many teachers wrote off as laziness, much to Michael’s dismay. In reality, fine motor movements were very painful for Michael; eventually he was diagnosed with dysgraphia, a rare condition making it almost impossible to write by hand. A therapist even told Michael’s mother that he would probably have to be homeschooled, and would not attend high school, let alone college. But Michael is proudly here, a freshman at Santa Clara University, defying all odds.

Michael has taken his diagnosis in stride, saying it has “put a chip on his shoulder,” a constant reminder of what he says has been the “greatest challenge of his life to date.” His increased competitiveness in overcoming obstacles has contributed to his love of adventure, engaging in many dangerous activities. At the age of four, Michael began to ski, and at seven he learned to drive an ATV. Soon thereafter, snowboarding, scuba diving, and river rafting were added to his favorite activities. Just this past spring break Michael traveled to Belize with his family and went scuba diving, both at night and during the day, coming in close contact with sting rays, sharks, and eels, among much other aquatic life.

A passion for adventure originated not only from the obstacles Michael has overcome, but also from his father, who, according to Michael, is infinitely more adventurous than his son. Michael’s mother cites the life she saw in her husband’s eyes as one of the primary reasons why she fell in love with him, and has grown to be more adventurous throughout their marriage.

His father has been known to push Michael to overcome his fears, often saying If you’re falling, you’re doing something right. It means you’re pushing yourself. It only becomes a problem when you get too scared to do something again”.

After falling off a cliff while dirt biking, Michael’s father enacted such a lesson. Although Michael was stricken with fear, his father made him return and bike through the same location the next week, saying that if he waited longer he would never get over the fear.

Although one cannot quantify Michael’s stories, his motivation to live life to the fullest has certainly contributed to lively discussions amongst friends, and incredulous reactions to his crazy experiences. However scared we may be to engage in risky behavior like Michael does, he still challenges all of us to truly live.

— Kirsten Andersen

Interning With Turtles

-1With each step, wet sand slid off of Eva Bray’s feet, but the freezing cold could not be escaped. It was only 3:00 am; her shift was halfway over. The guide led the group through darkness and rain in search of sea turtles, just one part of the battle against poachers.

“It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but group morale stayed pretty high,” she said. “It wasn’t a vacation. By the time we left we really felt we had accomplished something. Everyone said they’d do it again.”

Bray was looking for an internship in 2014 when she was offered the junior leadership position on a Walking Tree Travel summer program. Walking Tree Travel is a Denver based company, and one of its founders is an SCU alum. It offers over thirty adventures around the world for high school students to learn, travel, and give back. Bray was allowed to lead a trip of her choice. She chose the Sea Turtle Expedition in Costa Rica simply because “something about sea turtles just caught my eye.” In addition to leading, Bray was in charge of social media for the trip. She kept Walking Tree Travel’s website updated with her own photos and captions.

Along with two adult leaders and six high school students, Bray volunteered for La Tortuga Feliz, a sea turtle conservation organization. Its mission is to preserve the sea turtle population in their local area. Prior to La Tortuga’s establishment, 100 percent of sea turtle eggs that were laid on the beach were taken and sold by poachers. To protect the sea turtles, the organization built a hatchery on the beach where eggs found during the late night patrols are placed and watched around the clock until they hatch and can be safely released. On Eva’s first day at the hatchery, she released 57 sea turtles.

-4“It was super fun if turtles hatched while you were on duty because you were 100 percent responsible for counting, weighing, and releasing them into the ocean,” she said. From midnight to 6:00 am, the volunteers were either guarding the hatchery or patrolling the beach. During the day, they slept, hung out in hammocks, and played soccer with the locals, including some local poachers.

“Poachers are not really bad guys,” Bray said. “They’re trying to make a living, and they don’t realize that what they’re doing is devastating. At night we were going up against each other. There was a rule of non-confrontation. If a poacher has a turtle, we don’t take it and vice versa.”

There is hardly any police regulation on the beach. Because the police are locals, too, the poachers know their schedules or, in other words, they know when to avoid the beach. No one gets caught, so La Tortuga Feliz has taken matters into their own hands. Its rustic beach facility is made up of open-air shacks. Inside the shacks are bunk beds for the volunteers, as well as some other unwelcome creatures. A bat colony made its home in Bray’s shack, and she laughed about being woken up by a bat flying in her face.

-3Browsing through pictures of her trip one afternoon, Bray’s eyes suddenly went wide.

“Oh! And look at what my mom sent me the last week of the trip.” She pulled out her phone to reveal a picture of two yellow Labrador puppies cuddled together on a couch. Beaming from ear to ear Bray continued, “She said this is what I got to come home to.”

When Bray was six, a dog bite left her irrationally afraid of dogs. To eliminate this fear from her life, her parents decided to foster dogs in their home. It has been filled with dogs ever since, including the Labrador puppies. It was clear that what Bray was doing in Costa Rica was not something new. Caring for animals has been ingrained in her since she was a child. Bray found a way to channel her passion for animals, travel, and adventure into service, leadership, and a possible career that summer in Costa Rica.

Story by Layne Suhre

Photos by Eva Bray

From Culford Academy with Love

Daniella Silva- SCU Tennis- 2013

Daniella Silva- SCU Tennis- 2013

Many athletes claim that college makes up some of the best days of their lives, but not Daniella Silva. For Silva, the best days of her life happened at a castle in England, where she went to boarding school.

Silva currently claims the #1 doubles and #4 singles spots at Santa Clara University.

Silva has a good life here at SCU, but her life before college was just as successful. She attended boarding school in Cambridge, England. This is where she stepped out of her older sister’s shadow and took her tennis performance to a whole new level. Her school, Culford Academy, has been a huge and important focal point of her life. With stories such as meeting Olympians, wearing dreaded quilts, and attending school in a castle, nonetheless in a different country.

Silva played on a tennis team that was ranked number two in the entire country of England. In my interview with Silva, she told me many happy stories as she reminisced about her life in Cambridge.

Daniella Silva- SCU Tennis- 2013

Daniella Silva- SCU Tennis- 2013

In terms of Silva’s athletic success, Dani chooses to remain quite reserved about her record despite how great of a season she just had for Santa Clara. I immediately asked Silva how she felt about me interviewing her senior teammate, Steph Skaras. Silva claimed, “Not Steph. She doesn’t take me seriously.” With this relationship between Dani as a freshman and Steph, a senior, I decided to go ahead and do the interview anyways.

When I first spoke to Skaras and brough up Silva, she immediately snapped her fingers and said “Fierce Competitor.” These two words that came out of Skaras’ mouth formed one statement that every athlete craves to hear from their teammate. Steph went on to list many attributes about Silva, such as, “Heart, she has a ton of that. As well as courage, she’s not afraid. Loyalty, dedication, energy. Overall she was a great addition to the team this year. She made me want to play better. She really affected me, she became not only my teammate, she became my friend. So yeah, Dani is a great Tennis player.”

Despite Culford Academy being her previous home, Silva’s new home is here at Santa Clara University. She left behind a life in another country where she made a successful name for herself, but without doubt Silva is more than capable of surging ahead and becoming even more successful, here at Santa Clara U.

—Veronica Ybarra

An Ode to Escape

Four weeks ago I hopped off the plane at SJC visions of Spring Quarter in my head: sundresses, warm weather, and relaxation. This is it!  It’s my last spring quarter.

By week three reality had set in. Last quarter or not, it’s still hard to balance school and fun. I’m still sleep deprived and grumpy sometimes. Trading sweaters for sundresses doesn’t magically make the stress of school dissapear. I had to face reality:  Senior Year Spring Quarter isn’t perfect and stress free.

I saw the three day weekend as an opportunity for total relaxation. My close friends were busy and out of town. I was excited: finally the break I needed. It was time to sit by the pool, headphones in, pretending the outside world doesn’t exist.

Fortunately, I didn’t give in to my impulse towards complete laziness. When the opportunity to go hiking with some friends arose, I said yes. I said yes to breaking out of my usual patterns and spending time with people I didn’t know that well. I said yes to escaping the prison of my own routine.

 It was the best decision I’ve made all quarter.

Hiking through Castle Rock State Park

Hiking through Castle Rock State Park

Last weekend I hiked through a State Park I hadn’t even heard of. I tried new restaurants, met new people, got to know acquaintances a lot better, watched the sunset from a beautiful beach, and jumped into the frigid Pacific Ocean.

A relaxing beach adventure

A relaxing beach adventure

 When I was a Freshman I said yes to every new adventure. I took advantage of every opportunity to branch out and discover. However as a senior I’m guilty of falling into routines and ruts. I know who my friends are, my favorite spots, and how I like to spend my time.

We’ve all heard of the Santa Clara Bubble, but beyond that I want to talk about our own personal bubbles. It’s easy to get stuck in the routine. It’s important it is to say yes to the unexpected and no to the comfort zone. After all, I want to end college the way I started: excited and ready for anything.

— Athena Oldfather

Bursting the Bubble

The infamous, mysterious “Santa Clara Bubble” has us well within its grasp by the time spring quarter rolls around. Busy schedules and plenty of on-campus events are enough to keep many students tethered to our campus, even on weekends. This is enough to make anyone go a bit stir-crazy, but it can be difficult to find weekend activities that don’t require a car and don’t bust your college-kid-sized budget. Here are the top 4 easiest ways to burst the bubble:

1. Picnic at San Jose Rose Garden

Rose Garden
Despite being just a 20 minute walk from campus, the beautiful municipal rose gardens make you feel far, far away from it all. Scrounge up some extra dining points, stock up on snack foods from the Cellar, and bring a couple friends for a relaxing afternoon in the sun.

2. Visit Studio-Bongiorno

studio bongiorno
Walk a few blocks down Bellomy Street and you may be surprised to run into a cute little art gallery. Studio-Bongiorno displays diverse exhibits and is certainly worth the short trek if you have an affinity for art. Step it up a notch and take one of the classes or workshops they offer.

3. Shop at Euro Market

Euro Market
Fake a jet-setter lifestyle and stop by the Euro Market on El Camino Real. This obscure little shop sells European snacks and trinkets, as well as freshly made food. You might still be in suburban Santa Clara, but at least you’ll feel like you took a quick vacation to Eastern Europe.

4. Get your puppy fix at Reed Street Dog Park

Dog Park
If you miss your dog at home, or feel deprived of animal love in general, the dog park might be the place for you. Even if you don’t have a dog, you can pop by the park on Reed Street and pet someone elses! If you prefer canine-free park time, there is also the Larry J. Marsalli Park on Lafayette and El Camino, which would be a great spot for a pick-up wiffle-ball game.

-Summer Meza