West Allis — Teachers at West Allis Central High School would hardly recognize Matt Wyszynski, who was suspended for high-spirited pranks and slid through school with C's, as the one they knew.
This Matt Wyszynski, now 21, just won the MATC President's Award for academic achievement, school involvement and community service. He got straight A's at MATC. On the typical day, he left for MATC at 9 a.m. and got home at 10 p.m. "I was always at the library studying," he said.
He is now enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and has his sights on becoming a doctor or pharmacist.
By comparison, at Central, Wyszynski was suspended for "messing around" with his friends doing things like swiping food from the cafeteria and throwing it at other students in the halls, "and then (acting) like you didn't do it," he said. "Or I would smart off to teachers if I had a bad day."
He didn't worry about grades because his only desire was to be a professional skateboarder.
What made the difference?
It was a chance meeting with a pharmacist at a grocery store, which housed the bank where he worked as well as a pharmacy.
The pharmacist befriended him. "He'd tell me all these cool and crazy stories about what it's like in the pharmacy," said Wyszynski, who had always liked science despite his academic performance.
Pretty soon, Wyszynski decided, "I wanted his job," but his pharmacist friend told him that first he needed to do well in school.
That encounter gave the young man's life new direction just when he stood at a crossroads.
Facing up to life
Wyszynski had just graduated from high school and was facing some hard economic facts.
"I knew I didn't want to live poor," he said.
He also had been bitten by the travel bug when a friend's family took him along on a trip to Jamaica.
"I knew that if I wanted to travel, I would have to have a good job," he said.
At the same time, professional skateboarding was receding, partly because he had met a girl.
"I wanted to hang out with her more than skateboarding," the young man said.
The girlfriend is gone now, but his new vision for his life is the fire that now drives him.
And nobody could be happier about it than his grandfather, Joe Spolowicz, who brought young Matthew up.
"I'm ecstatic," Spolowicz said.
Before, all he could see for his grandson was a dim future. Spolowicz said he tried to talk him into having a backup plan in case the professional skateboarding didn't work out but he was met with the eternal optimism of youth. It was frustrating and worrisome for his grandfather.
"I always knew he was very bright," Spolowicz said.
And now the young man is proving it.
"I couldn't get him to study, now I have to pull him away from studying. He studies all the time," his grandfather said.
That's because his grandson knows he has a lot to learn. This spring at MATC, he received an associate degree in applied chemistry and math. AT UWM, he will complete his bachelor's degree, taking pre-med courses any medical school would want so that he will have as many doors open to him as possible.
He knows he is looking at four years of medical school and a three-year residency if he becomes a doctor. The pharmacy program also is four years and up to two years of residency.
"The time frame sucks, but it'll be worth it in the end," the now model student said.
"It's a lot of work but I look at those A's and think I did it. I feel successful," Wyszynski said.
The young scholar is amazed himself at how far he has come and how far he wants to go.
"From class clown in high school to a medical doctor. It's crazy how school is different when you start studying, " Wyszynski said.