Marissa Musumeci handled herself with poise and confidence during an outdoor adventure retreat where students were encouraged to work together and challenge themselves.

Until it was time to go to bed.

“I’m not really an outdoors type of girl and I’m petrified of the dark,” she explains. “I was scared.”

Fueled by the support of her fellow students, Musumeci survived that fall 2012 evening in the woods of Connecticut–cuddled up in a sleeping bag on a bench instead of on the ground. It was a learning experience that she says gave her the courage to handle any challenge that gets in her way.

Marissa Musumeci collaborates with fellow students to succeed on ropes course.“Getting through that night helped me to develop a strong attitude,” she says. “I now believe that I can do anything.”

Musumeci, a junior majoring in Public Relations, appreciates that other students were in her corner and hopes that one day she can fulfill a similar supportive role.

“This experience has given me the strength to believe that I can help other students overcome their fears,” she says.

Building confidence

This sort of personal growth is supported by “The Journey,” a four-year comprehensive program built on the cornerstones of involvement, service, career exploration and leadership.

Being involved in The Journey program has helped Musumeci become more confident.

“When I first came to Suffolk, I didn’t like to talk in front of a group of people,” she says. “But now, I’m the one who is the first to speak at an event. The Journey has taken me out of my comfort zone and I’ve learned not to hold back on what I want to say.”

Experiential learning

David DeAngelis, director of Student Leadership and Involvement, says that The Journey leadership program complements what students are learning in the classroom by engaging them in hands-on, experiential learning.

“And students don’t become leaders in a day, a week, or a month,” he says. “It’s a sequence of programs that allows students to develop their leadership skills throughout their collegiate career. And The Journey gives students a competitive edge in the workplace after graduation.”

The campus program is designed to develop student leadership skills through a variety of activities, including:

  • Leadership Winter Break: Students travel to Crystal River, Florida, to swim with and learn how to gently interact with manatees. For the second portion of the trip, students are given the opportunity to learn about the Disney leadership philosophy and management style.
  • Help Portrait: Students go into an underprivileged community center or school and make youngsters feel special by helping them prepare for a photo session. The Suffolk students help in the process of taking, developing and printing the pictures and then presenting the portraits to the children to give to their parents/guardians as a gift during the holiday season.
  • Leadership through Sailing: Students sail on the Boston Harbor, learning how to work together as a team to operate a sailboat, then putting their teamwork skills to the test as they race against other Suffolk boats in a Journey Regatta.

Musumeci, who also is involved in the Program Council and the Italian-American Association, expects to implement what she has learned from The Journey in college and beyond.

“It teaches you the importance of communicating and working with one another,” she says. “You learn so much, and everywhere you go you meet someone new. Making these connections is huge for the future and definitely has helped me grow as a person.”