Each month, the Goodnight Scholars Program highlights a select number of current Goodnight Scholars who represent the Program’s highly diverse and involved student cohort. This month, the spotlight focuses on Wilson native and artistic savant, Thomas Matrejek ’18.
Goodnight Scholars Program: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Thomas Matrejek: I’m from Wilson, North Carolina where I attended James B. Hunt Jr. High School. Before moving to Wilson in 2003, my family and I lived in El Paso, Texas. I applaud my mother for successfully moving with five kids aged two to ten. I am the middle child of the five, with an older sister, and older brother, younger sister, and younger brother. Coming from a larger family, we were often involved in the same activities and excelled in the same fields. All of us excel in math and sciences, with my older sister teaching high school math in Newton-Conover, my older brother studying electrical engineering at University of South Carolina, my younger sister attending Western Carolina University as a freshmen this year studying biology in hopes to become a vet, and my younger brother who is only in 10th grade, but is acing his honors math courses. Other than math, I was involved in our year round swim team, the local community theater, received my Eagle Scout ranking in Boy Scouts, and was thee team captain for our high school swim team. I was also the treasurer of our school’s chapter of Sociedad Honoraria Hispanica, a member of NHS, was a temporary yearbook editor, dabbled in video editing and Photoshop, took IB and AP classes, and was a student of North Carolina School of Science and Math Online. I also worked as a swim instructor at our public pool throughout the year and was a lifeguard all four summers of high school. I didn’t take many courses in high school related to electrical and computer engineering (ECE), but since my dad is a “do-it-yourself” guy, I’ve helped him wire up our house with all kinds of devices since I was ten. Since I was 13, I’ve been responsible for helping light up our house at Christmas time. The experiences I had with physical electrical components were a single step in contributing to declaring an ECE major. Besides the physical work, I was always fascinated by how computers actually worked. So far, I have loved all of my classes, excluding MatLab and Maple because those things are confusing, and am excited to continue my studies.
Talk about some of your greatest accomplishments at NC State thus far.
I try to be involved in multiple organizations at State to keep myself occupied instead of sitting in my room doing nothing. I have been a member of the State Swim Club the past two years, and have continued my involvement with NCSU University Theatre as a techie in Around the World in 80 Days, Ink!, and Anon(ymous), as well as performing onstage as Sasha in Fiddler on the Roof. I am also a part of the Catholic Campus Ministry, the University Scholars Program and, in my remaining spare time, worked an on-campus job at Talley Student Union during the 2016 spring semester.
So far, one of my biggest accomplishments was in my freshman engineering class, E101. I captained our Freshmen Engineering Design Day team to a first place victory in the water-fountain category. We went all out, used some relays, fooled around with some 3.5 mm auxiliary cords, and a few 12V RGB LEDs, to create a water fountain that would play Mary Had A Little Lamb, Hot Cross Buns, or even the Charlie Brown Dance Song at the push of a button. Each note in these songs was coordinated with an LED color and separate water spout. Besides my this project, during the summer of 2016 and the fall semester of 2016, I participated in a co-op rotation at Oracle in Morrisville as part of the Cloud Team with a concentration in virtualization and automation. Programming in multiple languages that I have never used before, I was given the task to support the systems running many telecommunication companies including AT&T and Verizon.
How would you describe your experience in the Goodnight Scholars Program?
From the first year Summer Retreat, to resume workshops, to cornhole out in Pullen Park at the Bye Week Tailgate, eating dinner with NC State faculty, and spending spring break venturing across North Carolina, I have developed some great friendships as well as important life skills. Everyone on the Goodnight Scholars Pro Staff and in our Program is extremely friendly, and gives me another community of individuals to be a part of. I have met some great people that I would not have met on a regular basis. The Goodnight Scholars Program has also given me multiple volunteer opportunities that I would not have pursued if I had not been a part of this Program. Volunteering with the Boys and Girls club, the Engineering Place, and multiple Science Olympiad competitions has given me the chance to work with kids and spread my passion for STEM. This Program has also allowed me to work as a Goodnight Ambassador and volunteer as a group leader during our annual LEGO Brick Build competition.
Everyone on the Goodnight Scholars Pro Staff and in our Program is extremely friendly, and gives me another community of individuals to be a part of.
What does being a Goodnight Scholar mean to you?
The single, most obvious answer is to pay it forward, one of the Goodnight Scholar Program’s mantras. Whether this is through volunteering as an event coordinator for a Science Olympiad competition, or building houses with Habitat For Humanity, Goodnight Scholars are expected to take their STEM passions and help make our community better. Being a member of the Goodnight Scholars Program also allows me to attend a university devoted to preparing its students for life after college by offering many different experiences. As a Goodnight Scholar, I am supported by NC State alumni Dr. Jim Goodnight and Mrs. Ann Goodnight to pursue the STEM major of my choice at no cost, enabling me to focus more on professional and social development rather than worrying about college debt. I am given a chance to have a deeper and more thorough developmental period throughout college with all of the events and activities presented to me through the Goodnight Scholars Program.
What will the next few years look like for you?
My future career goals are still unknown as of now. Although I am currently working at Oracle, it is more of a software based position rather than hardware and hands-on. At our reflection during the inaugural ASB Mountains to Coast trip, I said that I’m not certain what I want to do for my career yet, but I do know that in my free time I want to be able to contribute to future generations’ interest in STEM fields. I had a blast on our ASB trip, and after seeing Sandy Grove Middle School in Hoke County, I knew how important and exciting it was to see the little kids discover a method to our experiment that we had not considered. Along with STEM, as an avid theatre-geek, it would be nice to also work in designing sets and helping combine arts with STEM.
What advice would give to a new or prospective Goodnight Scholars about being involved at NC State and the Goodnight Scholars Program?
For prospective Goodnight Scholars, don’t fret excessively over your high school work. I wasn’t ranked number one or number two in my class. I only received AP credits for Calc 1 and a statistics class that does not count towards my degree. It’s important to get good grades, but you want to be an all-around student. Go out and find something you love to do. Get involved within your community. Figure out your passions and whether or not there’s a major related to those interests. When it comes time for college and scholarship applications, you will have so much to write about.
To all new NC State students, get involved! You always think “I’m only a single student out of 34,000, how can I make a difference anywhere?” To think about that question you can further ask, “how did any of the 600+ organizations on campus get started?” The answer is by a single student, or group of students. Our campus has the same population as some of the smaller towns in North Carolina. There is a huge chance that there is at least one person interested in the same activities as you. If you can’t get involved in one of those organizations, make your own. If you don’t want to do that, we are living in the capital of our state giving you numerous opportunities off campus that you can pursue. There is SO much free time in college. You don’t want to spend all of that time in your room studying. Go out and have fun, or volunteer at an organization to help our community.