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Dickinson College Student Gives Back as Volunteer Firefighter During Pandemic

Matt Kness,

Matthew Kness ’21

While at Dickinson, Matthew Kness '21 served as a volunteer firefighter through the Carlisle Fire & Rescue Services. After Dickinson closed its campus in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Kness went back home to New York state, the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S., where he serves as a volunteer firefighter/FAST (Firefighter Assist & Search Team). In doing so, he joins the many Dickinsonians around the world who are pitching in to help during the current health crisis.

During the past month in New York, Kness has responded to numerous fires, car accidents and other fire-related emergencies. Fully aware of the dangers of working directly with the public during this pandemic, he says he takes every reasonable precaution available to him. He also continues to maintain high academic standards and maintains a fitness regimen to keep in shape for next year's lacrosse season. Recently, Kness joined with senior Dickinson lacrosse players Ryan Schaffer, Zack Levin and Rocco Casaceli to launch a Go Fund Me page raise to raise funds for the family of Jerome Guise, a member of the Citizens Fire Company of Mount Holly Springs, who passed away in the line of duty.

In this Q&A, completed before the pandemic's spread in the U.S. Kness discusses his experiences as a Carlisle Fire Department volunteer, varsity athlete, international business & management major, study-abroad student and avid mountaineer. He also recalls his internship, his love of Italian language and why he recommends volunteer firefighting to fellow undergrads.

Hometown:

Yorktown Heights, New York.

Major:

International business & management.

Clubs and organizations:

Varsity men’s lacrosse.

Honors/scholarships/awards:

National Society for Leadership and Success.

On choosing a major:

International business & management (IB&M) seemed like the correct path to take from my first year at Dickinson. However, I was nervous about the language requirement as part of the major. I started taking Italian my first year and fell in love with the whole department. Without the Italian department, I wouldn’t be an IB&M major. 

Favorite movie:

Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back.

On choosing Dickinson: 

The second I stepped onto campus, I felt right at home. The atmosphere given off by Carlisle, and by Dickinson, was unlike any campus I’ve visited. Also, since I'm a lacrosse player, Head Coach Dave Webster ‘88 was an instant highlight of my whole Dickinson experience. The combination of the feeling I had while being on campus, and of meeting Coach Webster, made it a no-brainer for me.  

Favorite place on campus:

Durden Center/Biddle Field.

Favorite Dining Hall food:

Sriracha chicken.

Little-known hobby/talent:

I am an avid mountaineer. My most notable climbs are Mount Rainier, Mount Hood, Mount Shasta and Mount Adams, all in the Cascade Range in the Pacific Northwest. Also notable: I completed the Presidential Traverse, a 23 mile, 8-summit trek in New Hampshire.

Proudest accomplishment:

My proudest accomplishment would be summiting Mount Rainier my senior year of high school. Mount Rainier is the most technical climb in the Pacific Northwest, and it was the most difficult climb I have endured thus far. My two good friends, Will and Drew, completed the climb with me in 60-mph winds, with subzero temperatures. It was a true high point.

On studying abroad:
This fall I’m studying in Bologna through the Italian-studies program.

Biggest influence:

My father, because he built a plastic recycling company up from nothing. Not only does his company benefit the environment, but he is the ideal boss to work for. He leads by example and works harder than any person I’ve ever seen. He has taught me what it means to be a good person and to treat everyone with respect. But most important, along with my mother, he taught me how to work hard.

If I could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, it would be …

… my grandfather, who passed away when I was four months old. He was a World War II veteran who, according to my father, had some crazy stories to tell.

About my internship:

This past summer I interned with Merrill Lynch in Stamford, Conn. The financial world is a cutthroat industry, and I’m glad I was able to experience that firsthand. Most important, I am grateful for having this internship because I learned a lot about myself. For example, I learned that in order for me to sit at a desk for the next 45 years of my life, it needs to be doing something I love.

In a perfect world … 

… everything in life would be easy. However, that is not the case, so working hard is a necessity.

About my volunteer work:

I am a volunteer firefighter for the Borough of Carlisle. The family I was welcomed into at the station has made Carlisle feel like it’s my home.

People don’t often understand what volunteers do, so I will boil it down into four words: same as career firefighters. Yes, volunteers go into burning buildings, and the Carlisle area has plenty of those. To put it into perspective, from January to last summer, the Carlisle Fire Department saw more than 50 fires. That includes car fires, barn fires, house fires, etc.

The station also provides a space to get away from campus, as there are bunk rooms available to spend the night and a library where I complete all of my schoolwork. There are also tons of reclining couches that I spend a lot of time on. It is an awesome place to take a break from the normal routine on campus.

[To fellow students:] Don’t be afraid to join because you don’t think you have time; I am able to balance my schoolwork, be a member of the varsity men’s lacrosse team and be a college student at the same time. Come join Station 45; I will give you rides to and from the station. Oh, and we also get really good food there, too.

Most important thing I’ve learned so far:

To push myself beyond my comfort zone in anything that I do.

Read more Student Snapshots.

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Published May 1, 2020