William & Mary

Freshman overcomes challenges on road to effect change

  • Matt Green-Hill
    Matt Green-Hill  Matt Green-Hill (right) poses for a photo with some of the William & Mary students who participated in the PLUS program this summer.  Photo courtesy of the Center for Student Diversity
Photo - of -

For many of the freshmen who are settling into residence halls at William & Mary today, the move to campus was only the first or second of their lives. But for Matt Green-Hill, moving is an all-too-familiar experience.

Although living in five different states and studying at 17 different schools while facing poverty may have stopped others from reaching their academic potential, Green-Hill excelled. And today, after one more move, Green-Hill finds himself again in a new home, a home he hopes will help him on his journey to give back and make a change in his community.

“I’m just looking forward to coming down there and doing what’s necessary to succeed -- getting that degree and making some things happen later on in life,” he said.

Green-Hill was born in Baltimore, Md., and, no matter how many times he, his mother and two younger brothers moved while he was growing up, the family always seemed to end up back there.

“The constant thing was you move back to Maryland,” he said.

On one such move back to the city, Green-Hill’s friend introduced him to Boy’s Hope, a program that provides at-risk youth with educational support and housing. Green-Hill entered the non-residential program in the eighth grade. But his time there was cut short when his family moved again, this time to North Carolina where Green-Hill and his brothers would spend some time in foster care. When the family reunited, they again headed to Baltimore.

“I was living in a basement, sleeping on a floor,” said Green-Hill. “I basically didn’t like the lifestyle I was living in. I knew that’s not what I wanted to do.”

What Green-Hill did want to do was go to college.

“I always wanted to go to college, since I was a little kid,” he said, adding that he knew that in Baltimore his chances of getting into a good college would increase if he went to a private school.

Luckily, the house where Green-Hill was staying was close to Boy’s Hope. Green-Hill started going there every day after school to hone his study skills. He reapplied to be part of the residential program, which requires students to attend a college-prep school, and was accepted. He left the basement and moved into Boy’s Hope, and he enrolled in Archbishop Curley High School.

During high school, Green-Hill excelled inside and outside of the classroom. He conducted research at Johns Hopkins and served as the student body president during his junior year. He and some of the other Boy’s Hope participants also worked with “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” to build a home for the girls’ side of the organization, Girls’ Hope.

Green-Hill also ran track throughout high school, and it was at a track meet that he first learned about William & Mary.

“I researched the school, found out how good of a school it was and decided I needed to go check it out,” he said. “I went down for a visit, and then I did an overnight. I was really impressed.”

Though Georgetown had always topped his list of dream colleges, William & Mary soon took its place. The fact that William & Mary is a state school is one of the things that Green-Hill liked. And its setting and history didn’t hurt, either.

“I’ve always been in an urban setting,” he said. “I wanted to go to a historic, tradition-rich school.”

Green-Hill already spent some time on the campus this summer, thanks to the Preparing for Life as a University Student (PLUS) Program, which introduces students to William & Mary’s academics by offering them a chance to meet with professors and participate in mock classes.

“It was awesome because I was able to make contacts with kids who are on campus, and I was able to get adjusted to the academia there and just know what my resources are,” he said.

This fall, Green-Hill, who plans on majoring in government, will be running track for William & Mary, training with the ROTC and participating in the Sharpe Community Scholars Program. But, no matter what else he may become involved in, his number one priority is his academic performance.

“I want to get my roots down. I want to start off stable,” he said. “I want to get a 3.5 the first semester, which is very complicated, but it’s a goal.”

Green-Hill said he has been able to achieve what he has thus far because of his will and his family.

“I think I’m a pretty strong-willed person. If I want something, if I want to do something, I’m trying my hardest to get it,” he said.

Although Green-Hill feels bad about being far from his brothers while he is away at college and later in the Army, he knows that it’s important that they see him succeed.

“I need them to see me succeed so that they can succeed,” he said. “I’ve always sort of seen myself to be almost a father figure to them. … I don’t want them to think they can’t do things because they don’t have x, y and z. They need to succeed with what they have. You have to make what you can out of what you have.”

Green-Hill hopes that whatever he goes on to accomplish after College – whether it be something in the medical field or in law -- not only touches his brothers, but his community and the larger world, as well.

“It’s not just to say that I did it, but to say that someone helped, to say that someone did something,” he said. “No one just stood back and watched a city decay. Somebody stepped up and somebody tried to change things around. It’s going to take more than one person, but if I can add to that and if I can be one of those people, I want to be one of those people.”

But for now, as the Class of 2015 settles into their new home on campus, Green-Hill is looking forward to just getting to know the people who shared his latest moving experience.

“I’m looking forward to networking with other people, getting to know other people and just starting off on the right foot and having a successful career at William & Mary,” he said.