January 24th, 2024 | Students & Alumni
Catching Up with Arete Alumnus, Matthew Dormus
Today, we catch up with Matthew Dormus, one of Arete's first scholarship recipients who remained on scholarship throughout his entire educational journey from grades 1-12. Two years ago, he earned Arete's 2022 Graduate of the Year honors after completing his education at Georgia Cumberland Academy. Matthew now attends Oakwood University, a historically black institution in Huntsville, Alabama, where he is majoring in ministerial theology.
Founded by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1896 to educate freed African-Americans of the South, Oakwood's mission is to transform students through biblically-based education for service to God and humanity. This purpose motivated Matthew to choose Oakwood, an aspirational vision he has adopted as his own life's mission—to live a life of service to God and others.
Matthew is a remarkable young man, and as the child of first-generation immigrants, the value of a quality education has always been a priority for his family.
"My parents always said that education would be the key to my success," Matthew says. "My mom was my biggest advocate because she saw education as an equalizer. It doesn't matter whether it's race, ethnicity, origin, or whatever background circumstances life gives; as long as we apply ourselves to learning and our education, we can make our way in this world."
"She instilled that value in me," he adds.
Thanks to his Arete scholarship, Matthew's private school education was life-changing. One significant benefit that impacted Matthew was his exposure to philanthropy, community service, and humanitarianism.
"Because the private schools I attended had smaller student bodies, there were a lot of opportunities for student leadership," Matthew says. "This allowed me to organize with my classmates for greater needs and causes."
One such opportunity of service came when Matthew was in the sixth grade. He organized a water drive to provide clean drinking water cases for the Flint, Michigan, community during the Flint Water Crisis which started in 2014. Two school years later, while serving as school president, he led another water drive, collecting 470 cases of drinking water for Hurricane Irma victims in Florida. A toy drive would follow, providing Christmas gifts for children spending the holidays at Atlanta Children's Hospital. Matthew also initiated a recycling program, ensuring hundreds of pounds of paper from his school would be sent to recycling centers to be repurposed into usable items rather than simply ending up in the dump.
"Having opportunities to impact my student body, and even the world directly, has led me to seek a career where I can continue humanitarian pursuits," Matthew says. "None of that would have been possible if I hadn't been in a private school environment where teachers and administrators instilled in me a love of service and the opportunities to do it."
Now in his second year at Oakwood University, Matthew continues to engage in causes that benefit his classmates, school, and community.
He is currently a contestant for Mr. Oakwood University as part of the school's 2024 Mr. and Miss Oakwood University Pageant. The royalty platform at HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) dates back to the 1920s and centers on tradition, African American culture, and empowerment, with the winners representing their university and student body for the year. If elected to this prestigious leadership position, Matthew will use the platform to advocate for mental health resources on the OU campus.
Matthew's campaign slogan is "We Choose Hope," and he's advocating that instead of focusing on what won't change, we can and should choose hope to change what we can.
"I intend to equip students with mental health resources and support so they can choose hope for themselves," Matthew shares. "I've experienced personal mental health struggles, and I want to be of service to the student body by advocating for mental health programs and improvement."
To achieve this, Matthew is collaborating with the Oakwood University Health Services (OUHS) and other entities to establish what he's calling The Story Room, a mental health safe space on the Oakwood campus.
This room will be a safe space for students facing mental wellness struggles. He intends for the room to feature anonymous, written stories of current and past students who have battled through their own struggles. By making these lived experiences available, Matthew hopes students can learn that they are not alone, that others have and continue to struggle, and that, most importantly, there are hope and options for wellness and wholeness.
By partnering with OUHS, students will access resources and other practical ways of improving their mental health. As the central part of Matthew's campaign platform, The Story Room will be a place that not only displays these stories of struggle and overcoming mental health challenges but also serves as a comprehensive resource for relieving stress and anxiety.
As a contestant in the pageant, held on March 31, Matthew is enrolled in Emerge7000, which provides seven weeks of interactive leadership development and one day of community outreach. He also has the opportunity to raise money for his tuition. Each contestant must raise a minimum of $3,400, with 70% of that amount applied directly to the contestant's tuition, regardless of whether they win.
The Arete model is a holistic journey of academic formation and personal growth, which empowers underserved and marginalized children to reach their highest potential. As someone who believes in living a life dedicated to serving his peers and community, Matthew Dormus embodies Arete's value of excellence in action. Keep up your great work, Matthew! We are so proud to see you pursuing a well-lived, virtuous, and courageous life.
If you would like to learn more or help Matthew reach his $3,400 goal as he pursues the title of Mr. Oakwood University, please visit his GoFundMe page.