By JESSICA KIRBY
Walking into a classroom full of his peer mentees, senior Matthew Crawford wears an illuminating smile on his face. He walks to the whiteboard and writes, “Matty Cakes in the houseee” in huge letters, to the amusement of his peers.
Known around campus as Matthew, Matty Cakes or “the guy who always smiles,” he is the embodiment of positivity and kindness in the UMW community.
“UMW is just so awesome,” said Crawford, the 22-year-old psychology major.
Crawford spends his time giving back to UMW as an orientation leader, peer mentor and part-time student aide at Academic Services. He has been a part of the International Relations Organization, the Student Anti-Violence Educators and has served as both the vice president and president of the House Episcopal Lutheran Campus Ministry.
“UMW has definitely encouraged my involvement,” he said.
But a laundry list of extracurriculars can be exhausting at times.
“I feel like I don’t really balance it well. I think orientation leader and peer mentor training have been really helpful to me, as they have taught me the importance of taking time for self-care. I also balance the stresses of university life by talking with my friends, administrators like Dean Jones, classmates and professors,” said Crawford.
Despite his popular smile, Crawford has not always been this positive.
“Prior to college I was definitely nowhere near as positive. It doesn’t usually come so naturally to me. It’s funny because I usually tend to always be really anxious. I’ve constantly had to cope with my anxiety.”
Crawford continued, “Sometimes I’ll be in a really bad mood and I force myself to put on a smile out of habit. It’s not a great habit, but I learned it through the customer service aspect of orientation leading when I needed to be ‘on’ constantly, and I think it just stuck,” he said.
The support system he has found at UMW has helped him make it through.
“Having a counselor has made a huge difference. I think in college I have been able to be upbeat because I am constantly surrounded by my friends which makes me so much more happy. The love and connection at UMW brings me so much hope,” said Crawford.
Some around him say his positivity is contagious.
“I will really miss Matty Cakes next year. He was always someone who would just brighten up your day with just his smile,” said freshman sociology major Megan Mercuro, one of Crawford’s peer mentees.
Crawford has left a lasting impact on UMW, especially on his mentees.
“I think my favorite memory with him would be when we did a class bonding event and we sat with him and played card games. We were all able to get to know him more,” said freshman history major Sophie Weber, another of Crawford’s mentees.
Crawford is also one of the many seniors that lost part of their last semester on campus due to the coronavirus. Crawford says he is mourning all the “lasts” that he didn’t get to experience.
“I’ll miss getting to sleep in my room in Jeffy knowing that it will be the last time,” he said.
Looking back, Crawford cherishes all the time he had at UMW, although he has a hard time choosing a favorite memory.
“I think it’s just all the times when I rode over to Kumo Sushi with friends or hanging out with friends in the dining hall and just laughing so hard with them while we all shared a meal. Also, hanging with my peer mentees in FSEM and seeing them around campus are memories that I will always treasure,” he said. “It’s funny because a lot of the small things are what I remember.”
But in true Crawford style, he is making it through by staying positive.
“I am so proud of the University for making the decision they made. I think it will save lives for sure,” he said. “I think I am staying positive by remembering that the world needs me to sacrifice this time at UMW, and I hope I am making a difference by staying home.”