Student blends successful experience with home schooling, volunteerism
September 23, 2008
Matthew Michrina '12 brings volunteer and home-school experience to Dickinson.
Matthew Michrina '12 received encouragement from his parents to do volunteer work. Not that he needed much prodding.
"Actually my mom was worried I wouldn't get all my normal work done, since I was spending so much time volunteering," said Michrina, an undeclared major from Duncansville, Pa.
Her well-meaning concern didn't materialize. Michrina, home-schooled after attending public school from kindergarten through third grade, not only mastered his school work—well enough to earn a John Montgomery Scholarship at Dickinson—he never skipped a beat when it came to his volunteer workload.
Michrina worked behind the scenes at the Altoona Community Theatre near his hometown, building sets, props and operating a fog machine and other special effects. He did volunteer work for Operation S.O.S. (Support Our Soldiers) and assisted with Hurricane Katrina relief.
An Eagle Scout, he collected dry goods for a local food bank on behalf of his troop's Scouting for Food program. He also served in various leadership positions in his troop and participated in the National Boy Scout Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia, an event that draws scouts from around the world.
More recently, Michrina served as a volunteer intern on Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign, canvassing neighborhoods on weekends, staffing the phone bank and doing data-entry work. He was among 22,000 people who attended an Obama rally in State College earlier this year, and he shook hands with the candidate during a campaign bus tour in March.
"The main reason for being so involved is that I enjoy helping people and feel like I've done something to better my community," Michrina said.
A home-school education prepared Michrina for Dickinson in ways that were very different from the teaching he would have received at a public school, thanks to his self-motivation and educational guidance from his parents, Mark and Sue.
"I think one of the main benefits of home schooling is that if I had a question about something, I could get one-on-one attention that I needed to fully understand whatever I had a question about," Michrina said. "I'd typically wake up whenever I wanted to, usually between 7 or 8 a.m., and get started with school right after breakfast. I'd work on whatever subjects I wanted to, keeping in mind how far I needed to get in each subject by the end of the school year. I'd work for about six hours each day, sometimes longer if I was working on a research paper or another project. My mom typically oversaw my subjects—except for math and sciences, which were my dad's domain—but I really didn't have a ‘teacher.' It was almost all independent work."
During the summer, Michrina added to his busy schedule by working as a webmaster of the Hollidaysburg Area Public Library, where he maintained the library Web site and fixed broken computers. He first visited the library six years ago, when the Michrina family moved to Pennsylvania from North Carolina.
Since arriving at Dickinson he has picked up where he left off at home, joining the Dickinson College Democrats and the Outing Club, an outdoor activities organization.
In addition to being a John Montgomery Scholar, Michrina received a Thomas R. and Laura Ridge Scholarship from the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association for an essay on how his extracurricular activities demonstrate qualities that would help him in college.
Michrina plans to continue working at the Hollidaysburg library during breaks and, in keeping with his parents' encouraging words, wants to continue helping others, though on a larger scale.
"I would like to help bring justice and human rights to marginalized peoples around the globe," he said.