For Gio Scardino, high school was a time of pain and struggle. After hitting one of his lowest moments, Gio found real redemption at Shelterwood — and he graduated having found the true fulfillment he was searching for all along. Gio shares his story:
My priorities were off when entering high school. I was focused on fitting in and living a life for myself. I was desperately trying to fill a void that unbeknownst to me could only be fulfilled through an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. In efforts to fill this void, I pursued “the popular life.” Enrolled at a high school where the students were inflicted with affluence, temptation was ever-present. It did not take long before I was headed on a downward and ugly path. Poor decisions of drinking, partying, and smoking (marijuana) quickly transitioned into daily poor habits.
In a year and a half timeframe (sophomore year to second semester of junior year) my life spun out of control. I had successfully filled my life with things that held no true value. Running with the “popular crowd” led me into a life of smoking regularly, heavily dealing marijuana, drinking alcohol/partying, drug-related suspensions, police tickets/arrests, and severe car accidents. As if that wasn’t enough, a three-month drug investigation ensued at my high school. On the very last day of the drug investigation I was escorted out of class by the Dean of Students, rather than Security. This was the ultimate breaking point in my journey of self-destruction. In the Dean’s office I was informed that the school and local municipalities had subpoenaed my phone, dating back one year, obtaining full access to personal phone calls, text messages, emails, and social media. They had discovered an ugly track record of substance abuse, and I was immediately given a ten-day out of school suspension with a recommendation of expulsion.
In desperate need of help, my parents loved me when I did not deserve to be loved. They proceeded to do what few parents would have the courage to do; they sought out a specialized growth opportunity for me to begin making genuine change in my life. God exceedingly answered my parent’s prayer by presenting us with the incredible opportunity of Shelterwood located in Independence, Missouri. God used Shelterwood to transform our story. When entering Shelterwood I could not have been less interested in enrollment, but I was in a place in my life where I needed healthy influences and people to make positive decisions for me. At Shelterwood I faced some of the most difficult hardships ever, but with the help of God, my parents, the Shelterwood community, and through hard work, my life began to change for the better. I reflected on my many wrong doings and began understanding just how serious the pain I had inflicted upon others and myself. I had always believed in God, but it was at Shelterwood where I developed a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus. Shelterwood will always be remembered by my family and me, as it was used in such a powerful way to refocus us all on what God had intended for our lives.
I graduated from Shelterwood on October 25, 2012, and returned to Chicago. Shortly thereafter I graduated from my original high school. My parents and I never thought that me crossing the high school graduation line would have ever been an act of God, but it turned out to be exactly that. Since Shelterwood, God has gifted me with opportunities beyond my wildest dreams. I have been able to serve with mission teams in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and Nadi, Fiji. I embarked upon a yearlong discipleship program, known as the Kanakuk Link Year, where I focused on growing in relationship with God and developing meaningful friendships. Following Link Year, I transferred to North Park University. Currently, I am in my senior year and plan to graduate in May 2017 with a B.S. in Business Management. Intermittently throughout Link Year and North Park, I have been actively involved with the National Student Leadership Forum (NSLF) and the National Prayer Breakfast (NPB) in Washington, D.C. where I have had the privilege of leading many friends to be part of such meaningful gatherings. I have pursued the industry of Commercial Real Estate for four years now and have been privileged to work four different internships spanning three major metropolitan cities, Chicago, Dallas, and Washington, D.C. Above all, since Shelterwood, my focus has been learning how to walk with Jesus Christ daily, develop meaningful relationships, and love people well.