Until he learned the joy of serving others, Matthew Manning spent a lot of time in his youth feeling less than enthusiastic about what the world had to offer.
But his time at DePaul University, where he graduated in June with a bachelor’s degree in the history of art and architecture from the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, gave Manning ample opportunity to discover the spiritual and emotional rewards gained by serving others.
“DePaul has been a very nurturing school, and that is a rare thing to find,” he said.
Manning dedicated himself to starting a nonprofit organization assisting orphans in Africa and Latin America and getting involved in countless other volunteer and mentoring activities throughout his college years.
Manning and his two younger sisters were born to American parents in his mother’s ancestral Sweden, where they spent the early years of their lives. The family eventually moved back to the United States but Manning spent much of his youth feeling anxious and ungrounded.
In the summer between high school and college, Manning had a life-changing experience when he traveled to an orphanage in rural Ghana as a volunteer for the International Volunteer Headquarters.
"What really hit home was the joy and resilience we witnessed despite all of the poverty these children endured,” said Manning. “The poverty broke my heart, but the jubilance gave me the courage to better my own life.”
Later that fall, during his first quarter in college, Manning started the Worldwide Orphanage Relief Coalition, which works to bolster programs for orphans in Sierra Leone and Uganda, and increase volunteerism in Honduras, Ghana and Rwanda.
“I’ve always had a passion for helping other people, but I never really understood my own capacity for that until I went to Ghana and began attending DePaul,” said Manning.
Manning, who is of mixed-race ancestry, also got involved closer to home. He became a mentor and project coordinator for DePaul’s Men of Color Initiative, a program that focuses on boosting college completion rates for African-American and Latino males.
He also cofounded I Speak Chicago, an organization that seeks to unite the city through an anti-violence campaign rooted in awareness, expressed through action and inspired by the creative spirit of Chicago’s youth.
Manning also formed a mentoring group for inner-city youths where volunteers meet every other week with high school students to help them see the possibilities life can offer beyond their often limited surroundings.
“We really try to get them to focus on the beauty the world has to offer,” he said.
In the fall, Manning will begin pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Minnesota with a double major in the science of architecture and sustainable design. He plans to dedicate his life to building green communities in the developing world.
Written by John Holden