By Aakash Jain ’14 & Michael Ahearne ’14
When he discusses his community service endeavors or his recent night photography excursions, Matthew G. Harris ’13 speaks with culpably sincere enthusiasm and humility.
With evident passion, he describes the various roles he has played as a Brophy student: president of Best Buddies, Kairos leader, school ambassador and photographer.
When told that he had been chosen as a finalist for The Roundup’s “Man of the Year” Award, Harris said there are other candidates more deserving of the honor.
Humble. Responsible. Accepting. These are the words that his peers and teachers use to describe him.
“He’s always been the kid that I’ve looked up to,” said Alexander Smith ’13, a close friend of Harris since elementary school. “I think he embodies everything that a ‘man for others’ should be.”
As a senior, Harris served as the president of Best Buddies, a club that helps students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“We go over to a school called Gompers, which is a private school for kids with these disabilities, every other Friday,” Harris said. “We play games, do activities and do a lot of fun stuff over there. It’s a really neat club that’s meant to foster one-on-one relationships.”
According to Mrs. Karen Parise, moderator of Best Buddies, because of Harris’s leadership the club has expanded greatly in the last year, having grown from eight to 33 members.
“It’s a difficult population to work with,” Mrs. Parise said, referring to the students who are served by Best Buddies. “We provide peer friendship … Sometimes that is a tall task for a teenager because the kids can be kind of scary. They’re difficult to interact with … You’re really out of your natural comfort … For a long time it’s been difficult to get kids into the club because of that. I don’t know how Matt does it. He brings people into the club and makes it a seamless transition.”
Harris has also been involved with the Red and White club.
“I work on the committee with Mr. (Mike) Ward and plan open house and do a lot of work with admissions,” Harris said. “That’s a really cool thing to be a part of and help run.”
Harris also served as a Kairos leader, an experience that not only assisted in his personal edification, but was also valuable to his fellow retreatants.
“(Kairos) inspired me so much,” Harris said. “It was cool getting to work closely with six other kids in my group and see how Kairos affects them too.”
As one of the students in his group, Smith credits Harris as a powerful source of guidance during the retreat.
“His presence was probably the biggest life-changing thing that happened on Kairos,” Smith said. “I can’t really say much else because I don’t want to ruin it for anyone else who hasn’t been on Kairos but … He changed my life.”
One of Harris’s newfound passions is photography, an interest he discovered as a junior while taking a class with Mr. Mica Mulloy ’99.
“I think taking a picture is really only 50 percent of what I like about photography. The other 50 percent for me is that I get to go out weeknights and weekends and explore Arizona,” Harris said. “It’s an adventure every time. Every picture has a story behind it.”
In particular, Harris recalled a trip to Sycamore Creek with friends as a memorable experience that his interest in photography facilitated.
“I remember one time I went to Sycamore Creek,” Harris said. “We got there a little bit before sunset so we could set up. And we did a star trail, which consists of 200 30-second photos all put together into one. Maybe it’s not the best picture that I’ve produced, but it’s the experience that I remember—something that I’ll look back on for years.”
Next year, Harris plans to study supply chain management at the Barrett program at ASU, a decision that he at least in part credits to his experiences at Brophy.
“Through my work at Brophy managing different leadership roles I decided I like logistics and that supply chain management would be a good fit for me,” Harris said. Ultimately, Harris hopes to apply his education to giving back to his community.
“I want to be able to build a foundation to help fund kids’ scholarships to get an education because I think that fielding the leaders of tomorrow is the best thing for our economy,” Harris said. “I’ve been given this awesome gift to come to this amazing place and I’d like to pass that on to others.”