BY ATHENA FOSLER-BRAZIL
While many of his fellow members of the class of 2018 were anxiously cramming for the PSAT and trying to fit in as many AP classes as possible, current senior Marc Del Toro embarked on a year of travel with his camera and his bible in hand.
Del Toro spent his junior year traveling with family and friends, taking photographs on his black-and-white-film camera, sharing his faith and meeting a diverse selection of people who influenced his point-of-view and attitude toward many things.
“I wandered, and I got to know other people, and through other people I kind of found myself,” Del Toro says of his time traveling in Belize, Mexico, Thailand, Japan and Australia.
The CHS senior traveled independently from any organization that would typically take students abroad, enthusiastic about getting to know the most authentic version of each country he visited and especially interested in talking to the locals he met and exchanging views on many things, specifically spirituality and religion.
A devoted lifelong Jehovah’s Witness, Del Toro’s faith has been a significant part of his life since childhood, and he was excited to have the opportunity to spread his beliefs.
“I kind of fell in love with it,” Del Toro says. “I love meeting new people, teaching people, learning about people’s cultures and their beliefs as I try to share mine.”
Del Toro is well-loved on the CHS campus, many people noting his unique perspective and profound ability to personally connect with people, both traits he cultivated in his time abroad.
English teacher Mike Palshaw has known Del Toro since the student’s freshman year and admires his tenacity, curiosity and facility with words, all apparent since Palshaw first got to know him three years ago.
“I always loved having him in class just because his perspective was never like anybody else’s,” says Palshaw.
Students and teachers alike have positive opinions of Del Toro, and it is clear he is held in high esteem by many.
“He’s a really good listener, a good conversationalist,” says senior Grace Heidtke, a longtime friend of Del Toro. “He gives incredible advice.”
His kindness and strength-of-character were missed on campus last year, but Del Toro had a positive experience abroad, and while there were things he missed about Carmel, he is glad he took a year to travel.
Del Toro’s experience has influenced him to consider early graduation and take more time to work and travel, putting less emphasis on the strict high-school-to-college trajectory that many students feel obligated to follow. Though he is planning on pursuing a higher education, Del Toro realizes that he has a variety of options he can consider. He is considering graduating early and taking more time to travel and work, possibly returning to his hometown of San Diego before embarking on another journey.
Traveling not only enabled the senior to spread his faith and experience new cultures, but also to experiment with his passion for black-and-white-film photography, which he hopes to pursue after high school.
Del Toro has loved photography since taking his first photo class sophomore year, and photography teacher Holly Lederle has enjoyed watching him progress over the years.
“His style has matured for sure,” says Lederle of her experience with Del Toro. “Whenever I see a print, I know that it’s his right away because he has a really distinct point of view that comes through in his work.”
Since moving from southern California to Carmel in elementary school, Del Toro has discovered and fostered a multitude of passions with the help of many influential teachers at CHS, including his facility with writing, which Palshaw admires and has watched him refine over the years.
Del Toro’s time abroad also helped him learn to budget his money and get some real-world experience that many students don’t get until college or later.
“It taught me how to budget, how to limit myself, like I can’t do everything I want to do,” Del Toro says.
While Del Toro greatly valued this experience and is considering early graduation, one of the reasons he is undecided about leaving is his passion for mock trial, which he participated in freshman year and again this year and says is one of the major things tying him to CHS. The senior appreciates the opportunities mock trial offers students, as well as the mature, dedicated and welcoming community of students who participate in the club.
Back in Carmel, Del Toro continues to volunteer for his church, and though it is a large part of his life and his family, he does not let it dictate every aspect of his character.
“I think he’s unique within [his faith], in that he’s found a way to balance his own personal identity and the identity of his church,” says Palshaw, who is familiar with the role religion plays in Del Toro’s life.
Teachers and students admire Del Toro’s friendliness, dedication and unique perspective, and they recognize the ways he has grown over his year abroad and since freshman year.
“Intellectually and in terms of his capacity with language, I think he’s one of the top students on campus,” Palshaw summarizes. “In terms of potential, he’s off the charts.”