“Best Job in the World”: Alumni Spotlight, Matt Wacenske ‘09

As one of the inaugural kindergarten students at The Franciscan School, Matt Wacenske
experienced many firsts in his elementary and middle school grades. He was in the first graduating class of students who attended K-8, and his mom, school counselor Laureen Wacenske, has taught at the school since it opened its doors in 2000. For Matt, he believes TFS laid a solid foundation of education that was also rooted in faith. And just as important, he says,
“TFS instilled a mentality of leadership and service, which has helped every day of my life.”

Photo Matt Firefighter AdultThis mentality of leadership and service has truly become Matt’s calling in life. Matt currently works as a Firefighter for the Raleigh Fire Department. In his free time, he serves as a volunteer firefighter with the Stewart Simmons Volunteer Fire Department in Deep Gap, NC. Although Matt had originally planned to go into law enforcement, a family friend recommended the fire department and he hasn’t looked back. To Matt, being a firefighter “is the best job in the world.”

Matt attended N.C. State University after Cardinal Gibbons, which as a lifelong Wolfpack fan, this was a dream come true. He majored in Environmental Science and was approved to create his own minor, Fire Ecology. While in college, Matt served and trained with AmeriCorps in the Tahoe National Forest and helped save the Sage Grouse in Nevada. He is currently working with RFD Station 17 where he is also being trained for high water rescue. Just this Thanksgiving, Matt was supposed to be visiting with family when a wildfire spread outside Boone, N.C. Matt sacrificed his time off to serve with the Stewart Simmons Volunteer Fire Department. Thankfully, his crew was able to put the wildfire out and keep surrounding families safe.

Matt credits so much of his success today to the experiences he had at TFS. Many teachers were influential during his time, pouring time and energy into his education, his character, and his future. He fondly remembers winning the Shamrock tournament his 8th grade year, the Blue Jay Point field trip in 5th grade, being coached by a former Major League Baseball player, and making some of the best friends he could have.

To today’s students, Matt encourages them to “enjoy every second you have, because being at a great school like TFS is a privilege. Engage yourself whenever and wherever possible- you get out what you put in.” And quite possibly the most important encouragement of all, Matt says, “Don’t be afraid to stand up for what’s right, whether that is picking up trash, sitting with someone at lunch who might not have many friends, or standing up to a bully. Because if you don’t, who will?”

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