by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson
Pennsylvania native Matthew Cherry ’13 traveled far from home to find his dream job, but he’s in familiar territory all the same. Just weeks after he wrote a paper on the Israeli conflict and took the Red Devils lacrosse team to the CC championships, Cherry found his passion in a career that combines his interest in world affairs with his zeal for the game.
"I can't imagine a better fit," says Cherry, speaking from his office in Tel Aviv, Israel. "It really is the perfect job for me."
A political-science major and two-time captain of the Dickinson men's-lacrosse team, Cherry is the program-development director for the Israel Lacrosse Association (ILA), a grassroots organization that promotes community-building in Israel through youth engagement in lacrosse programs. While they learn the rules of the game, the players make connections across neighborhoods and across continents and become involved in community-improvement projects.
“The lessons they learn along the way are valuable life lessons: leadership, integrity and honor,” says Cherry, adding that future plans include bringing together players from Arab and Israeli schools. “Our ultimate aim is to use the game to promote change.”
Cherry first became involved with the ILA last year, after learning that a national lacrosse organization had recently been founded in Israel. He secured a chance to play on the Israel Lacrosse National Team and, after graduating from Dickinson, traveled back to Israel to connect with his Jewish roots and to volunteer for the ILA. “I got so involved that I decided to stay,” he says. “I even turned down a job offer [in the U.S.] to do it.”
Two months into the job, Cherry has worked with phys-ed teachers in every school in Ashkelon, Israel, about an hour's drive from Tel Aviv. He also has led a lacrosse camp for 5- and 10-year-old at-risk students and has distributed sticks and balls to all campers, so they can continue to play.
He stresses that the lessons he learned while serving as lacrosse captain during his junior and senior years inform his work every day. “This game has given me so much, and it’s a dream to be able to give back in this way,” he says.
Published July 1, 2012