Naito balances Blue Band and grades to earn President's Freshman Scholarship

Monday, April 29, 2013 - 11:07am

Undergraduate Student Spotlight by Rachel Brown

Time management is often a struggle for most first-year students. But for Blake Naito, a freshman from Littleton, Colorado, with a family legacy in geography, it is a strength that has helped him juggle multiple commitments.   His success this year was recently recognized as he received the President’s Freshman Award.

The President’s Freshman Award is presented annually to undergraduate degree candidates and provisional students who have earned a 4.00 (A) cumulative grade-point average based on at least 12 graded Penn State credits completed by the end of the fall semester of the academic year the award is given.  It was established in 1960 during the presidency of Eric A. Walker (1956-1970.

Naito’s father works for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management as a cartographer. Both his mother and his brother graduated with bachelor of science degrees in geography from Penn State, and his brother continued his master’s studies here, too. Despite the family trend, Naito says he came to the idea of geography on his own.


Blake Naito is an active musician, playing trombone and baritone, and he maintains a 4.0 GPA.

“My parents always wanted me to do what I wanted and never really pushed the subject,” he said, “But I took a lot of geo[graphy] courses as a kid, was in AP Human Geography last year, and obviously was exposed to geography in general, and I guess all of that stewed in me a little …” he says.

In high school, Naito always tried to stay involved. As the president of the Key Club, the oldest and largest service program for high school students, Naito helped organize many local events that helped expand his work ethic and interest in many different subjects. Some of his efforts included raising money to improve school safety through a motorcycle rally, helping with the preservation of the Columbine memorial, and, most importantly to him, raising money for the organization Children of Peace International to help build schools in Vietnam.

In addition to his busy schedule volunteering, he was also a member of the math club and in three different high school bands. All of these experiences contributed to Naito’s interest in expanding his knowledge and want to continue music education in collegeas well as the time management skills he uses today.

So how Naito keep it together? He limits his free time. “It may not be the most enjoyable method, but it certainly works for me,” he says. “Also, setting deadlines for myself, working in public places, and creating goals for me to finish my work have all helped me juggle time too,” he adds.

Naito plays Baritone six days a week in the Blue Band. In addition to the 5-day-a-week practices for the Blue Band and long game days, his minor is in trombone performance. Naito also plays in the trombone choir through the School of Music.  In addition, he is a member of the EMS student council, the GIS Coalition, and Blue Band THON organization.

“My favorite memory so far, this whole semester, is the first football game when we were standing in the tunnel waiting to go out,” he says. “It was crazy.”

Although music does take up a lot of his time, geography is still just as important in his life at Penn State. A double major in GIS and human geography, he still has a lot to learn about “thinking like a geographer,” he says, quoting Roger Downs, his Intro to Human Geography teacher.

 “I don’t have anything specific that I want to do yet because I’m so interested in everything,” he said while thinking about his reasoning for majoring in geography. “I just want to expand my horizons in geography and expand my life positively.”

“I want to help out other people in a good way. Whether it is geography, or doing music on the side, if I can give back to the community somehow… that’s enough for me,” says Naito.

Looking back on his first semester, Naito has already learned the importance of being involved, getting the most out of one’s classes, and living the busy life that tends to haunt most Penn State students. But despite his swamped schedule he is looking ahead to do big and bright things.

“I can truly say that this first year of college alone has been one of the greatest times of my life,” he said. “My time at Penn State already has proved to be even better than I could have imagined and I eagerly await the experiences and opportunities these next years will offer.”