Finding His Why: UVA Wise Student Leads by Example

Matthew Estrada
Estrada is a recipient of the Hunter J. Smith Athletic Scholarship.
Photo by Mark Robertson-Baker II

Matthew Estrada of Madera, Calif., has a full plate. During the football season, he goes from 6 a.m. until late into the evening attending class, practice and work. A sport management major, Estrada is not only a full-time student, but is also a senior on the UVA Wise football team, lead cook at Applebee’s and the first in his family to attend college. 

UVA Wise is celebrating first-generation students like Estrada in the month of November to raise awareness of first-generation college students by highlighting their experiences and outcomes. 

When asked why he decided to attend college, Estrada emphasized the importance of obtaining an education.

“Where I am from, the concept of college is not really thought about. It’s either you go to prison or go to the army, and I chose to get an education instead,” said Estrada. “Being the first to go to college in my family is important to me because I want to set an example. I have a lot of younger brothers, sisters and cousins that look up to me and I want to show them it is possible to make it out of hardship.”

Estrada partially credits his ability to juggle so much while maintaining a good GPA to his mentors. He cites Matthew Williams, associate professor of sport management at UVA Wise and former coach Anthony Gallegos of Madera, Calif., as being two of his biggest role models. Estrada holds Gallegos’ mantra, “Find your why,” close to his heart when asked about motivation. 

After graduation, Estrada plans to enter the workforce. “Wherever I end up, my main goal is to continuously strive to be the best version of myself. To all the kids that come from a rough background, be the change in your family. Embrace being uncomfortable in all walks of life, and always remember your why,” Estrada added.

If you are a first-generation college student with limited income or a disability, you may be eligible for additional support. Check out UVA Wise’s TRIO Student Support Services for more information.