Mario Barrozo, a junior at the University of North Florida (UNF), is the epitome of a dedicated, well-rounded and involved student in the community. Though his major is in public health, Mario’s participation in the Great Decisions program in high school became a bridge to connect his interest in healthcare with his interest in broadening his understanding of the world.

Mario Barrozo

Mario first became involved with the World Affairs Council of Jacksonville in high school through his participation in the Darnell-Cookman School of the Medical Arts’ Great Decisions program. Mario credits his Great Decisions teachers Chuck Renz and Alexander Ingram for getting him interested in the program.

Great Decisions is a year-long student enrichment program on foreign affairs that fosters critical thinking, conversation, and decision-making skills. Since 2004, the Great Decisions program has grown to include 20 area high schools, reaching students from schools in low-income communities, career academies, and private schools.

Mario credits the Great Decisions program with giving him “unique experiences that really contributed to his interdisciplinary perspectives.” When asked about his Great Decisions experience, Mario expressed immense gratitude for the opportunity to hear from world renowned speakers including ambassadors, Nobel peace prize recipients, and foreign dignitaries. Mario enjoyed the Great Decisions program so much that he now volunteers as a Presidential Envoy at select Global Issues Evenings to give back to the program.

When reflecting on his involvement in the Great Decisions program, Mario said that the “open forum” feel of the discussions was the best part, adding that the Great Decisions program provided a space to engage in civil discourse centered conversations. The skills taught through the Great Decisions program are ones that Mario encourages all students to take advantage of, as this program provides “a lot of great opportunities.” One opportunity Mario took full advantage of was the annual Admiral Jonathan T. Howe Academic WorldQuest, where he competed three times over the course of his high school journey.

University of North Florida Presidential Envoys working at a Global Issues Evening with the World Affairs Council of Jacksonville

When asked to give advice to incoming high school freshmen about the program, Mario explained that “any chance that you get to broaden your knowledge, especially in high school, is really just a stepping-stone to what will ultimately lead to something greater.” Mario believes that the skills honed through the Great Decisions program set a foundation to create a lifelong desire to continue to grow in one’s global perspective.

Mario remains extremely grateful for not only the professional connections made, but also the friendships that were built, as this program equipped Mario with the tools to tackle real world issues in both a collaborative and innovative way. Through the skills developed, connections created, and world view expanded, Mario deeply believes that the Great Decisions program transforms students into future world leaders.

To learn more about the Great Decisions program and ways to support our education programming, click here!