Find Your Motivation
Alexia Matos-Mateo advises first-year students to examine what motivates them to make the journey through higher education. Such examination, she believes, will contribute to their success.
For Matos-Mateo, the motivation was simple. Her mother, who was born in the Dominican Republic with a mental disability and cannot read or write, has worked a series of factory jobs in their Bronx neighborhood to support Matos-Mateo and her brother.
“Seeing my mother break her back day in and day out opened my eyes and fueled the hunger that I have now. I vowed to pursue higher education despite all the roadblocks,” said Matos-Mateo, a criminal justice major with a 3.7 grade point average and membership in three honor societies.
“Buffalo State has been the best choice I ever made. The people I’ve met and the lessons I’ve learned are unforgettable. I always think of this school as the place that gave me a second chance.”
From Follower to Leader
Since coming to Buffalo State, she’s taken on a number of campus leadership roles and was recently selected as a finalist for both the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence and the President’s Medal for Outstanding Student.
Matos-Mateo overcame enormous odds to reach these pinnacles.
She made the transition from a “clueless freshman” to a poised and confident young woman who serves as a cadet in the Golden Griffin Battalion of ROTC and has been assigned as a second lieutenant handling military intelligence for the U.S. Army after she graduates.
Matos-Mateo cites a handful of Buffalo State mentors with helping her to find herself and overcoming the insecurities that plagued her when she arrived.
Such mentoring and a desire to get involved resulted in her becoming an Orientation Leader, an assistant with the Educational Opportunity Program, and a resident assistant overseeing a floor full of first-year students.
“I always tell people that Buffalo State is like my Harvard. I wouldn’t change a thing. My Buffalo State experience has taught me to be a leader, and I am always inspired when I am here.”
Finding a Brighter Future
Not only has she become engaged with the campus, Matos-Mateo also participated in two Buffalo State service learning trips. She taught English as a second language to children in Chile and helped residents in the impoverished city of Borgne, Haiti, with health concerns.
After she graduates, Matos-Mateo will serve her eight contracted years with the Army, funneling what she learned in her criminal justice classes into intelligence work. Later, she said, she may pursue a career as an attorney or FBI agent. She also envisions opening a community center geared toward teens who suffer from alcoholism and/or mental illness in her childhood neighborhood. She wants to show other young people that they, too, can find a brighter future.
“It’s hard growing up in an urban community,” she said. “But I also believe everyone has a personal choice. You must be strong enough and have the will to want better for yourself.”