A senior double-majoring in social science and political science with a double-minor in history and communication, CSUSM Student Body President Matt Walsh is a go-getter, seemly destined for great things. He served as a resident advisor during his sophomore and junior years, was a member of the University Student Union Advisory Board, joined Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and was one of the founding students of the Civility Campaign, a movement that strives to promote care, respect and empathy among all members of the campus community. In addition to serving as Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) president this year, he works part-time in the Vice President for Student Affairs’ office.

To look at the gregarious and outgoing student leader, you’d never guess that Matt is a dramatic example of how one can overcome the challenges of homelessness and domestic abuse to fulfill a dream of higher education and helping others.

“I tell people that I was basically born into the foster care system,” he said. Adopted at the age of two, he was later removed from his adoptive mother’s home the day after his fourteenth birthday due to psychological and physical abuse.  “It was miserable,” Matt reflected.  “I would never wish my experience on anyone else.”

Luckily, the family of a close friend welcomed him to live with them and embraced Matt as their own. They encouraged him to stay in school and he eventually found his way to Cal State San Marcos.

Matt enrolled at CSUSM through the ACE Scholars Services, a one-of-a-kind program that offers guidance to students exiting the foster care system in the form of academic and personal counseling, career development, assistance with college entrance forms and scholarship applications, and much more.

“Many former foster youth have no one,” said Matt. “ACE is a safety net-a support system.  I didn’t always need them, but it’s nice to know they are there.”

The statistics for former foster youth show that a college degree is an uphill battle. While about 75 percent of foster youth dream of going to college, only three percent will ever attend. Furthermore, only half of those who do get accepted will ever make it to commencement. Matt, who is on track to graduate this spring, looks forward to a future career in politics or public service.

At Cal State San Marcos, Matt has found his voice; and now as ASI president, he has certainly found a long to-do list.  He says he wants to engage students and see them out in the community, working in more internships or doing community service learning. Matt also wants to see more opportunities for community members and alumni to interact with students.  And given his personal experience, a big agenda item is reaching out to those students who are traditionally underserved to let them know that CSUSM is their home now too.

“Over the summer we created a brand new veterans affairs officer position on the ASI Board of Directors,” he said. “This student position will champion veteran, active duty and military dependent rights and services. I’m also looking forward to championing ACE and connecting with all students, but particularly those who haven’t felt very connected or a part of our campus.”

Matt says his tumultuous background has given him the strength and the passion to be a leader. “Through my experiences I have found passion. I feel empowered to do anything I want because I know what it’s like to be at the bottom – I have seen what happens to people when they make bad choices and that’s not the life I want for myself.”

At Cal State San Marcos, Matt has found his voice; and now as ASI president, he has certainly found a long to-do list.  He says he wants to engage students and see them out in the community, working in more internships or doing community service learning. Matt also wants to see more opportunities for community members and alumni to interact with students.  And given his personal experience, a big agenda item is reaching out to those students who are traditionally underserved to let them know that CSUSM is their home now too.