Midland College graduate has been through many difficult life experiences; classes help him find a new path July 11, 2019

The image to use for this article. Listing image managed through RSS tab. Nicholas Mastroianna

To say Midland College graduate Nicholas Mastroianna has come a long way is an understatement. Mastroianna battled undiagnosed learning disabilities; he started drinking alcohol when he was 12.  After his parents divorced on his 14th birthday, he started using drugs, and he was homeless by 17.

“There were a lot of different transitions throughout my young life growing up in Colorado,” said Mastroianna “I did not feel like anyone cared about me. I was very angry. I had a lot of built-up anger, confusion and anxiety. I lived with my dad after my parents divorced. He was working all the time, so I started to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.”

Throughout all those tough times, Mastroianna always held a job, which competed with his studies.

“During my senior year in high school, I was working two jobs and my grades were suffering,” Mastroianna said. “I was a terrible student, but I decided I wanted to graduate. I wanted to prove to everyone that I was not a screw up. So I buckled down and graduated. To this day, that diploma is one of my most treasured personal achievements. That experience made me believe I could do anything; it is just a matter of will power and how bad I want it.”

Through therapy related to his alcohol treatment program, Mastroianna repaired his relationship with his mother who had moved to Midland. She urged him to come live with her. Once here, a driving while intoxicated charge made him start thinking more seriously about exactly what he wanted to do with his life.

“I wanted to learn,” Mastroianna said. “All my life I had been battling ADHD, and I always just thought I was stupid. I never saw college as an opportunity, but I decided the only way to move forward was to continue my education at MC. I am a first-generation college student, so I did not have any idea know how to get back into college. One thing I’ve always done well is ask questions, so I did just that.

“It is tough to learn how to be a student again. It is not the normal path, but for people going back to school, I feel like we want it a little bit more. I think it is because we have a different perspective. I have never been one to do things the traditional way.

“I think MC allows everyone to do things they never thought were possible by offering so many vital resources like scholarships to all students, especially to those who are in need or who are willing to work hard. These opportunities bring students closer to turning their dreams into reality.

“The decision to go back to school ended up being one of the best things that ever happened to me. It changed my life. I tell everyone, ‘Go back to school; there are so many opportunities, especially at MC.’”

Mastroianna gravitated toward engineering and decided to join the MC Engineering Club. He became part of the Submersible Sensor System project for the MC Marine Science Research Team. He worked on the housing for sensor pod systems that will be used to measure water quality parameters of fresh and marine water environments.

“I was working on a project that had a real world application,” Mastroianna said. “The project was almost too good to be true.  I learned how to scuba dive, and then traveled to Honduras, all expenses paid, to test what I helped create. I was ecstatic. I just saw the potential in an opportunity; I just said yes to it, and that is what I continue to do.”

Mastroianna says the faculty at MC prepared him for the project with rigorous class work, but professors regularly went above and beyond to help students.

“MC professors take the time to really help students succeed despite who they are, where they come from or what their background is,” Mastroianna said. “They just want you to do well. I experienced it first hand and was lucky enough to be a part of the MC community. Dr. Brian Flowers, department chair of Engineering and Physics is my mentor, and I am forever grateful for him because he has done so much to help me and my fellow students.”

Mastroianna now has a good relationship with his entire family. He says they have become his biggest supporters and sources of encouragement. Mastroianna graduated from MC in May 2019. His goal is to become an astronaut.

“For me, I know the larger I make my goals, the harder I am going to work toward them,” Mastroianna said. “Even if I come up short, I still have the journey along the way.  Who knows what types of the relationships I will build or what types of experiences I will have! I left drugs behind, and good things are happening, so I am going to continue on in that direction. At MC I have been able to accomplish things and go places that I never even imagined were possible for me.”

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