Educating the Whole Person
Stonehill’s Burton scholars share their leadership journeys.
Some people may shudder at the idea of going on a seven-mile run at 4:30 a.m., but for the youth at the Ron Burton Training Village (RBTV) in Hubbardston, Massachusetts, this experience is a normal part of their daily schedule.
“That run is a metaphor for life,” said Kemuel Navarrete ’22, who attended the RBTV from age 11 to 18. “Villagers run up hills, not on a flat road or a trail. Life is like that. It’s not necessarily easy or straightforward. There are bumps along the way, but you can get through it.”
Named after the New England (Boston) Patriots football player (1960-1965), the RBTV enables young people to unlock their purpose and overcome life’s hurdles through education, leadership, physical wellness, social advancement and spiritual growth.
Since RBTV’s mission aligns with that of Stonehill College to educate the whole person, it makes sense the two organizations have a long-standing relationship. The College grants scholarships to RBTV alumni each year. These financial gifts typically cover the full cost of Stonehill tuition. Dozens have benefited from this program.
Fall 2022 will mark 20 years since the Burton community first partnered with the College to help change students’ lives. In celebration of this milestone anniversary, we recently caught up with four Burton scholars to learn how their RBTV and Stonehill experiences helped them become the leaders they are today.
Thomas Noah ’15: Finding Purpose Through Physical Wellness
The RBTV temporarily ceased in-person operations in 2020 because of the pandemic. Recognizing the importance of engaging with villagers during a difficult moment in history, the program worked with Thomas Noah ’15 to develop a virtual clinic focused on physical wellness.
The Framingham resident was a natural fit to lead this initiative. After completing undergraduate studies in healthcare administration and studio arts, Noah began operating his own fitness and nutrition consulting company, 3G System Fitness, in 2019.
“My passion for health, fitness and eating right started at the Ron Burton Training Village,” he said. “Their program laid the foundation by combining lessons on leadership, the importance of education, athletics and wellness. Together, all those lessons allowed me to enhance my mind, body and spirit.”
Noah jumped at the chance when first approached by the Burton team to run their virtual fitness initiative, as he recognizes the camp gave him the confidence to succeed in the United States after he immigrated here from Liberia in 2003.
“That’s why I have such a desire to help and develop others’ leadership skills, whether it’s through business, or as a coach through athletics, health and fitness,” he said. “I had so much given to me. The guidance I received through the camp opened so many doors for me.”
Eric Libby ’17: Unlocking Potential with Education
Eric Libby ’17 joined the Burton community as an eighth grader living in a foster home. His guardians believed he would benefit from the RBTV experience after witnessing the effect the camp had on their other foster children.
The Framingham resident is grateful that he joined the program which, according to him, “puts a premium on learning.” Libby grew up believing higher education was out of his reach. At the RBTV, he learned how to access the greatness inside of him, making his pursuit of a degree more feasible.
“College was never in the cards for me when I was younger, but I put in the work at Ron Burton and I really tried to immerse myself in it all,” Libby said. “From there, I got the opportunity to attend Stonehill, which changed the trajectory of my life.”
Libby, who majored in accounting, enlisted with the Marine Corps after graduating from college. In the role of infantry squad leader, he oversaw over a dozen marines while stationed in Hawaii from 2017 to 2021.
Libby currently works as a data specialist for Definitive Healthcare in Framingham. He also coaches Framingham High School’s junior varsity lacrosse and varsity hockey teams. As he supports young athletes in much the same way he was supported at the RBTV, he is thankful for the opportunities he had because of the Burton community.
“I attribute a lot of my success to what I learned at the RBTV. It changed my life for the better,” he said.
Kemuel Navarrete ’22: Honing Leadership and Life Skills
Kemuel Navarrete ’22, a communication major with a double minor in business administration and Spanish, recalls that one of the most impactful lessons he learned at the RBTV was also one of the first.
“When you join the camp, they teach you how to introduce yourself to other people,” he said. “You learn to stand up tall, give a firm handshake and maintain eye contact. Those are basic things that everyone should know how to do.”
Later, Navarrete and his peers built upon these fundamental lessons through public speaking sessions offered by the RBTV. Villagers would complete exercises designed to teach them how to convey ideas clearly and confidently. These lessons had a lasting effect on Navarrete, as made evident during his first meeting with Joseph Dacey ’02, vice president of enrollment management at Stonehill College.
“At a young age, I had the confidence to approach Joe when he visited the camp,” he said. “I was able to express my interest in Stonehill, three or four years before I even had to worry about applying to college.”
Navarrete, president of Stonehill’s Class of 2022, has flexed his public speaking muscles quite a bit recently. Having just finished college, the young leader has spent the last few weeks interviewing for a job as a media buyer at Hill Holliday. The marketing agency recently offered him the position, which he accepted.
Kevin Silva ’26: Ready to Make Positive Changes in the World
While Navarrete’s college experience recently ended, his RBTV peer Kevin Silva ’26 is only beginning his journey as a Skyhawk. The Framingham resident is excited to attend Stonehill this fall. Though Silva is a bit anxious about stepping into adulthood, Navarrete has assured him that he made a good choice when he registered to attend the College.
“Kemuel has been a great resource,” Silva said. “He has told me that he’s had a great experience at Stonehill.”
Silva is currently considering declaring a major in engineering and a minor in business. His goal upon graduating is to do something that affects others and empowers them to make positive changes in the world.
“I think my experiences at Stonehill and the RBTV will enable me to do things that create a ripple effect,” he said. “Accomplishing that might not be easy, but the camp always taught me to rely on God and the people around me for strength and guidance while I work to inspire others to be kind, loving, giving and caring.”