by Steven Dugan
What do you do when you’ve been attending Homestead events your whole life, you enjoy history, and the director of the museum happens to be your dad? You join the family business as soon as you are old enough! It is our pleasure to introduce everyone to Julian Spitzzeri, this month’s featured volunteer. Julian is a junior at Ayala High School in Chino Hills and joined the volunteer staff in 2016, first as an administrative volunteer and more recently as a docent trainee. Being around the museum is nothing new to Julian, so to say that the museum is in his blood is quite appropriate. Now that he’s a member of the volunteer staff, we asked him to reflect on his memories and experiences—old and new.
The Homestead has always been a part of your life. What are some of your earliest memories?
One of my earliest memories, by far, was attending Homestead Director of Public Programs Alex Rasic’s wedding on the West Lawn next to La Casa Nueva in 2006. In fact, I was the ring bearer for her and her husband Chris DeFay, so I was given the job of presenting the wedding ring on a small white pillow to them in front of all the wedding guests. Another early memory was attending the major Christmas events that the Homestead offered and visiting Santa Claus, who was then stationed at the gazebo instead of the West Room of the Workman House. Finally, I have a memory of being at the 2007 Volunteer Appreciation Dinner, where I helped pick up people’s cups and even offered to serve drinks.
What are some of things you like about being a volunteer?
The chance to interact with so many different kinds of people is something I absolutely love about being a volunteer at the Homestead Museum. I have been able to talk and work with practically every kind of person, from small children to teenagers, and from young adults to the elderly. It also is wonderful to me how you can make so many people happy just by giving them a good impression and always maintaining a positive attitude. It just shows how simple it is to make someone’s day even more enjoyable. Of course, since I have a passion for history and teaching, I love to inform people about different elements of the museum when they have questions or are just exploring, whether it be the architecture, the artifacts, or the layout of the site. When people think that something that you said to them was interesting, it is a great feeling.
Tell us about a memorable experience you’ve had as a volunteer.
One memorable experience I had as a volunteer was just recently, at Holiday Merriment, where I was in charge of the origami goat activity. After knowing very little about the making of origami objects, I suddenly became a “teacher” for so many of the kids who attended the event that day, showing each of them step-by-step how to fold a triangular shaped piece of paper into the face of a goat. Every child was so sweet, attentive, and interested, which really warmed my heart. It definitely was one of the best volunteer experiences I’ve had so far because it helped me strengthen my social and leadership skills, as well as my patience. It also gave me the chance to make little children happy, which I most certainly did.
What has been the most challenging part of being a volunteer?
In practicing to become a docent, I have recently found it the most challenging as a volunteer to practice giving a tour within an hour inside La Casa Nueva. With the Workman House, there are exactly five rooms that visitors are led into, whereas La Casa Nueva has so many more spaces, not to mention the many little details worth pointing out throughout the house. I have certainly learned that there not only needs to be a set time frame for each room, but that I should not go into too much detail about specific topics with visitors in one space.
Has your volunteer experience overlapped with your studies in any way?
Yes, my volunteer experience has overlapped with my school studies, but in an unexpected way. Giving presentations in front of my classmates in some of my classes has had a great influence in how I conduct myself when in front of visitors at the Homestead, whether it be in the houses or outdoors. Just as I have boosted my confidence in speaking at the front of the class in recent years, I have felt confident when speaking to visitors or answering their questions. In addition, talking and working with students in a kind and respectful way has also made interacting with visitors at the museum a very positive experience.
What are your plans after graduating high school?
After I graduate from Ruben S. Ayala High School in 2020, I plan to attend a California State University that is not near my home. At the moment, I am considering applying to Cal State Channel Islands in Camarillo, California, along with other schools so that there are plenty of opportunities available to me. In terms of a career, I would like to be a world or United States history teacher in either junior high or high school. Lastly, I am eventually looking to move out of state, but that would only happen after I go to college somewhere in California and after I have definitely decided to become a teacher.