Sandusky senior Jaylen Guevara has become a perfect example for his peers.
Rewards must come through hard work.
"You have to work, and know who is helping you out in the process," said Guevara, a standout fullback and linebacker from this past season's Blue Streak football team. "It's about the people willing to help you, and having the ability to help other people around you. It is a collective effort."
Guevara, who has been an active member of Team Focus since the fifth grade, will be a recipient of the Ricky Hendrick Memorial scholarship for $5,000 towards Guevara's college education.
"I was happy and extremely grateful," Guevara said upon hearing the news. "I'm looking forward to what lies ahead."
Team Focus is a faith-based, non-profit organization that mentors young men ages 10-18 without a father figure in their life. To be eligible to be a part of the free program, the young men must have no male figure in their household and show leadership qualities.
Former Norwalk resident Mike Gottfried established Team Focus in 2000. Gottfried guided the St. Paul Flyer football team to a state poll championship in 1969 before coaching in the college ranks at Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Kansas, and Murray State from 1978-89. He has worked on and off for ESPN as a commentator.
Making Guevara's accomplishment stand out even more, the Sandusky chapter of Team Focus is one of 16 in the country, located in much larger cities in Alabama, Tennessee, Texas, Michigan, California, Nevada and Washington D.C.
Yet the largest scholarship offer went to Guevara and 'little' Sandusky.
Sandusky Team Focus director Wally Ziegler put in Guevara's name for consideration.
"Jaylen has a 3.2 grade-point average, which puts him in the top 25 percent of his class," Ziegler said. "One time Jaylen overheard me talking to two fifth-graders about their grades, and he asked me to talk to them.
"He told them he may have the honor to get a scholarship, and the reason he had that chance is because when he was their age, his mom taught him to start studying often. He did that on his own. When you are trying to teach leadership in a group ... you can't get better leadership than that."
Being rewarded with the scholarship is just the beginning of what will be a special Christmas break for Guevara. After the New Year, Zielger and Guevara will fly down to Mobile, Ala., the home base for Gottfried and Team Focus.
Guevara will be recognized at halftime of the GoDaddy.com Bowl that will be played Jan. 6 between Miami, Ohio and Middle Tennessee State.
Prior to that on Jan. 4, Guevera will ride on a float in a Mardi Gras parade and throw beads to the crowds. Mobile was actually the home of the first American Mardi Gras celebration, even before New Orleans.
From there, he will attend a luncheon with Mobile mayor Sam Jones and several other football dignitaries, both college teams playing in the game, as well auto racing driver Danica Patrick. It is there that Guevara will give a thank you and acceptance speech.
"I'm really looking forward to the luncheon and meeting the players and legends down there," Guevara said. "I can't wait. And getting to go to a bowl game, that's always fun too."
Ziegler put the entire trip in perspective.
"For a Sandusky kid, this is a really big deal," he said. "It's a big deal for the Sandusky chapter of Team Focus because we get a little recognition from Jaylen.
"It's a big deal for Sandusky schools and his family because they're all so proud of him."
It won't be all pleasure while Guevara is down south, however.
With an interest in Marine Biology, Guevara plans on visiting the University of South Alabama, which features an exceptional Marine Biology program.
"It's something I've always wanted to do since I was little, and something I always could picture myself doing," Guevara said about his interest in the field.
Guevara could also play football at the next level, and South Alabama could be one of those possibilities as he will also visit with the team's football coach.
The school began football in 2009 with a planned full transition to the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (Division I-A) by 2013.
This past season for the Blue Streaks, Guevara made 117 tackles, including nine for loss. He earned second-team Greater Buckeye Conference and second-team Northwest District honors.
Sandusky finished 7-5, making the playoffs and won a playoff game for the first time since 1990.
"This past season was very special to me," Guevara said. "It was the best season we've ever had in any sport I've been a part of and I'll never forget that.
"I think the success we had, it's going to keep continuing. Our class, we got it off and going and hopefully they can keep marching towards a state title one day so that my family and brothers in that class can say we helped it get to that point."
As one of 102 boys in the Sandusky Team Focus program, Guevara said there are countless people to thank.
"I'd like to thank everyone involved, there's just so many people," he said. "They kept me interested in the program and all the great stuff that goes with it.
"I first heard about it in the fifth grade and I've liked the atmosphere ever since. They teach people to be leaders and treat you good while helping you make progress."