Staff Spotlight: AYF’s Romauld Dugue

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Information Technology Manager Romauld Dugue works behind the scenes at the American Youth Foundation, ensuring the three sites stay connected to deliver quality youth programming year-round. Dugue first heard about the AYF from his mother-in-law, Julie Stengle, who works full-time at Merrowvista. She encouraged him to join the seasonal staff in 2021, where he saw firsthand the power of AYF programs in children’s lives.

“To be able to support the AYF’s mission while also doing something I love feels like a gift to me,” he said. Here, he shares more about his role, his favorite spots at Miniwanca and Merrowvista, and what he’d do if he could be a camper for one day.

What were your initial impressions of the AYF summer camp experience?
“I was instantly struck by the incredible campuses we have. Both Merrowvista and Miniwanca are gorgeous sites. And they really come alive when our participants get here. Our campers get to be part of a community that connects them to nature and each other – all while developing an inspiring sense of self and purpose.”

What do you do as IT manager and how does it support the programs people know and love?
The core of what I do is provide software/hardware solutions and technical support for the AYF. I get to create systems, iron out processes, fix glitches, and address tech issues. I really love it, and best of all, I get to learn on a meaningful level how our AYF team interacts with all the tech that supports our work. Most importantly, I never want our tech or equipment to get in the way of a staff member delivering the promise of our mission to a camper.”

The nature of your role means you get to visit all the AYF sites. What is one of your favorite places at each place and why?
“My favorite place at Merrowvista is the Eating Lodge. Kim Novotny, who runs the food program, works wonders, and the room at mealtime is always abuzz with the sound of happy campers. It’s a building full of happy memories. But a close second is the top of Mt. Flagg. The trail for it splits right off from the main road through camp, and every summer I hike it at least once to take in the view.

“My favorite place at Miniwanca is the beach. Watching the sunset over Lake Michigan is something I tell anyone visiting the state to do, and we get to watch it every night here on site.”

How do you connect with the AYF mission when you are on site?
“By trying to imbue every engagement I have with a profound spirit of respect and value for everyone’s part in this mission. That means valuing their time, their process, and their place in the community. No one’s job is a small ripple – we’re all one big wave together.”

If you could be an AYF camper for one day at either site, what activities would you make sure to do?
“The climbing courses, as well as going up Old Baldy at Miniwanca. The sense of accomplishment I see in our campers when they finish a climbing course has always made me want to try it.”

If you could trade jobs with a colleague for one day, whose role would you like to try and why?
“It would have to be Dayna Vuksinick or Michael Harter, who run our Community & School Programs. There’s such a variety of activities and strategies they get to implement, and it always looks like they’re having a blast.”

Outside of work, what are some of your favorite things to do in your spare time?
“I love to go running, read poetry, and paint portraits. I’m a huge history buff, so I’m always open to any recommendations for books on ancient cultures or societies. Also, I grew up in Florida, so it’s impossible for me to say no to the beach.”

What is one book that had a significant impact on your life?
“‘A People’s History of the United States’ by Howard Zinn was the first book I read when I entered college. It was transformative for me – it completely rearranged how I look at the world and myself for the better. I think it’s a must-read for anyone graduating high school in the United States.”

What’s some of the best advice you’ve ever received?
“I have two I remind myself of daily: Be charitable when people make mistakes because the sum of you doesn’t have to be defined by the worst thing you’ve ever done. And: Try to meet people where they are, not only where you want them to be.”