Episode Notes | Episode Transcript | AskTheGuest

 Hi Fives (5 Highlights)   3-Minute Listen

As an undergraduate student at Merrimack College, Nathan Persampieri shares his undergraduate experience. Nathan is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Social Justice.

Nathan lives with a rare neurological diagnosis. In his upper class in high school, he started getting involved with the community, focusing on how to be compassionate towards people with disabilities.

Nathan started his undergraduate college journey at MassBay Community College & then transferred to a 4-year program at Merrimack College.

Hi-Fives from the Podcast are:

  1. Overall Experience
  2. Why MassBay?
  3. Founding a Scholarship
  4. Campus Activities
  5. Advice for High Schoolers

Episode Notes

Episode Title: Nathan Persampieri of MassBay & Merrimack: Social Justice, Civic Engagement, and Founding a Scholarship.

Nathan lives with a rare neurological diagnosis. In his upper class in high school, he started getting involved with the community, focusing on how to be compassionate towards people with disabilities.

Nathan joins our podcast to share his experiences on his undergraduate college journey at MassBay Community College & Merrimack, on Founding a Scholarship, and his Advice for High School Students with disabilities.

In particular, we discuss the following with him:

  • Overall Undergraduate Experience
  • Transition to MassBay Community College
  • Founding a Scholarship
  • Advice to High Schoolers

Topics discussed in this episode:

  • Introduction to Nathan Persampieri, Merrimack [0:46]
  • Hi Fives - Podcast Highlights [1:57]
  • Overall UG Experience [4:49]
  • High School Interests [5:45]
  • Choosing MassBay [8:16]
  • Transition to MassBay [11:49]
  • MassBay Peers [16:02]
  • Choosing a Major [18:10]
  • Founding a Scholarship [20:53]
  • Transition to 4-year College [26:44]
  • Social Justice Major [32:23]
  • Campus Activities [34:27]
  • Advice for High Schoolers [37:55]
  • Memories [40:25]

Our Guests: Nathan Persampieri is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Social Justice from Merrimack College. Nathan received the Associates degree in Liberal Arts from MassBay Community College.

Memorable Quote: “In a world where you can be anything, Be Kind”. Nathan Persampieri.

Episode Transcript: Please visit Episode’s Transcript.

Similar Episodes: College Experiences


Episode Transcript

Transcript of the episode’s audio.

Nathan P  0:14

Everyone has a different challenge that they face in their lives. We all love challenges, everyone is unique. And don't judge us everyone learns differently. Just take the time to get to know us.

Venkat  0:46  [Introduction to Nathan Persampieri, Merrimack College]

That is Nathan Persampieri, who is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Social Justice at Merrimack University in Massachusetts.

Hello! I am your host Venkat Raman.

Nathan was interested in theater and photography in high school.

In his upper class years, he started getting involved with the community, focusing on how to be compassionate towards people with disabilities.

Nathan is living with a rare neurological diagnosis.

Venkat Raman 1:22

Nathan joins our podcast to share his experiences on his undergraduate college journey at MassBay CC & Merrimack, on Founding a Scholarship, and his Advice for High School Students with disabilities.

Venkat Raman  1:42

Before we jump into the podcast, here are the High-Fives,  Five Highlights from the podcast:

Nathan P  1:57  [Highlights - Hi Fives]

[Gap Years]

I graduated MassBay Community College in the spring of 2022 with my associate's degree, and I went for to Merrimack college this fall.

[Goldwater Scholarship]

So I wanted a college where I could really take that step. Transitioning not too big, not too small. And also getting the attention I deserve from professors.

[Scholarship Impact]

I started my own fundraising on Facebook. And MassBay is a great school. So with my birthday and graduation being in the same month, May 2022. I really wanted to give back to MassBay.


[How UG Research Shaped her Education]

I joined Student Government as well because I really love Student Government dad pay I really wanted to do that again. So we listen to test students concerns and advocate for them. And we have weekly meetings that we attend.

[Advice for High Schoolers]

Seek out different opportunities every you um, in high school, see what you like see, if you're interested in something you don't realize their support, especially for people with disabilities.

Venkat Raman  4:13

These were the Hi5s, brought to you by College Matters. Alma Matters.

Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

Venkat Raman  4:24

Now, I'm sure you want to hear the entire podcast with Nathan.

So without further ado, here is Nathan Persampieri!


Venkat Raman  4:34  

So if you're ready, we can jump right in.

Nathan P  4:38  

Yes, I am ready.

Venkat Raman  4:41  

Awesome. So Nathan, maybe we can start with a little introduction. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Nathan P  4:49  [Overall UG Experience]

Yes, I am Nathan I am 23 years old. From Newton Mass. I graduated in May As a community college in the spring of 2022, with my associate's degree, and I transferred to Merrimack College this fall, I just wrapped up my first semester there it went great. I am passionate about advocating for people with disabilities and in advancing inclusion.

Venkat Raman  5:37  

Maybe we can start a little bit with your high school, what were you like in high school? What kinds of things did you do? What were your interests?

Nathan P  5:45  [High School Interests]

Um, yeah, for sure. I, my main interest in high school was I was very involved in the theater, I played the Rabbi in Fiddler on the Roof. That was great. And I really liked acting throughout high school, and photography. And I slowly over time, I became involved in the community. And I was passionate about civic engagement. And to be honest, I, I didn't have their will many friends, I sort of felt isolated and alone, because I was placed in this sort of group of special education, kids with much more severe disabilities than me. So I didn't do really thrive. By having that many friends till the second half, junior year. When I started, I, I put together two panels about how to be compassionate towards people with disabilities. I put this group together and we co hosted that event. And that's when I sort of started to get many more friends and eyes. Yeah, I was able to really get out into the community more.

Venkat Raman  8:06  

You went to MassBay. But what was your thinking about college while you were in high school? And what kind of courses or subjects did you like?

Nathan P  8:16  [Choosing MassBay]

Yeah, so in high school, in the senior year of high school, which admittedly was my best year of high school, I really flourished during my senior year of high school, because I had a lot of friends. I so they had as me being a person with a disability. I I learn differently. So I wanted to college where I could really take that step. Transitioning not too big, not too small. And also getting the attention I deserve from professors, not class sizes, and I really found that mass pay we looked at different for your schools to begin with. And we didn't find that. There do really sense of community or one to one to action, and the accessibility was integrated care campuses we were looking at. So we attended some transition fairs and to explore different options after high school. And then with the help of inclusion facilitators and people who were guiding me and as well as my parents, we stumbled upon mass pay, I remember going to mess MESFETs fall open house in the fall of 2018. And I liked it so much, because they willingly provided the support that I needed. And there were really great professors. And then you could transfer to anywhere, you could go anywhere. And so I went to that, and I applied the next day. So that tells you that I really liked it. And yeah, I knew that it was gonna be a great fit for me.

Venkat Raman  11:35  

So tell us about that transition. Tell us about actually going to MassBay What was that, like, compared to your high school? And how was the first semester was it semester or quarter?

Nathan P  11:49  [Transition to MassBay]

It was semester. Okay, so my first semester at MassBay was, okay. I took three courses, because that was an manageable amount of work for me, I really like the professor's they will really accommodating small class sizes, their flexibility. When you could take the classes, day evening, on the weekends, you could work a full time part time job. So they really meet students where they're at. And my first semester, I got involved in the Leadership Development Program at MassBay, where you grow your leadership skills, and you attend these different workshops. And at the end, you put together a civic engagement project helping those in the community. Yeah, so that really helped me grow as a leader and define my leadership style and all that. And that is, in the second semester, I joined student government organization, that student government association and that to really helps students make a difference on campus and be a leader. I I joined that in February 2020. And of course, a month later it started pandemic, but that didn't slow me down. I was I MassBay pivoted to remote learning and I was able to make that transition. And that was okay for me. I lost that social connection and seeing people in the hallways, but yeah, it is what it is. I was able to finish that semester and take a summer class and go on to the fall and spring semesters, which will also remotely

Venkat Raman  14:55  

You mentioned that you did some civic engagement For what, what on the leadership development program? What kind of civic engagement did you do?

Nathan P  15:08  

There will all kinds of things you could like to run a toy drive, you could help the local nursing home lighting ladder is to the nursing home, people in the nursing home, and things like that. I decided to do the ladder.

Venkat Raman  15:44  

So how were your peers in, in college and MassBay? Your other classmates? And how did you find them? What did you know? How were they interacting with you? How was that experience?

Nathan P  16:02  [MassBay Peers]

They will really helpful to me. I, I made friends that scene for the first time. And during the last semester there. i i I made my best friend his name was Keith. And we had a class together called Environmental Science. And you know, it was in terms of their first couple semesters. It was kind of how because it was a commuter school. They don't have dorms at Mass pay or community college. So it was kind of how to make friends. And obviously the pandemic didn't do early help. A day put on fun events on Zoom, and they hosted the president toasted these town halls to give updates on what was going on on the COVID level and the student engagement different events to help the students get engaged Can I was really a leader when it came to get Student Government Association. I really felt my voice was heard and that I could contribute meaningfully.

Venkat Raman  18:05  

What did you end up majoring in? And how did you pick your major?

Nathan P  18:10  [Choosing a Major]

I,I, Yeah, I started off majoring in communications because that I thought would be a good career path. For me, but my advisor I've found out my advisors sort of guided me and said for me to pick these courses in order to graduate and so I ended up leaving where with a major in liberal arts, which was sort of an umbrella of communications that was so MassBay has these different academies. Academic Academy's Well, you could choose majors and there are sort of seven academies under different umbrellas like stem, Legal Studies, business, automotive, humanities and social sciences. Yeah. So I was placed under the humanities and social sciences Academy. They had five majors under their side Psychology, English level without communication, psychology and sociology. So I started off doing liberal arts communication, but then I switch to just level. And that was fine for me that classes were similar a little bit.

Venkat Raman  20:35  

Okay, so before we talk about your transition to Merrimack, let's talk a little bit about the scholarship you found at MassBay for students with disabilities, tell us tell us how you went about doing that and what you've accomplished.

Nathan P  20:53  [Founding a Scholarship]

So during the last three weeks, at my time, of my time at MassBay, I started my own fundraising on Facebook. And MassBay is a great school. So with my birthday and graduation being in the same month, May 2022, I really wanted to give back to MassBay. Cuz it had provided me with such great opportunities. So I wanted other people to thrive. Yeah. But then, as I went along, I was fun ways in in about mid May the MassBay broader to STS and foundation board, petted up, and wanted to help me out by giving me a Endowed Scholarship, they wanted to raise money for me. And they put out a lot of promotional material. And I did find a way thing of my own in terms of solicit soliciting, friends, family, neighbors, my church community, everybody who saw that knew me to this moment, I wanted them to donate. So I sent many emails out short of mass emails, asking for donations of we astounded $23 For my 23rd birthday on May 23. So that's how we sort of framed it. And then it got the attention of WBEZ. And WBEZ actually interviewed me ad MassBay doing that graduation ceremony and before the graduation ceremony, and I actually found out that that story was one of the top 10 news stories and WBEZ ad just appeared yesterday. So awesome. I was very proud of that. And actually my I have a graduation picture. Soon smiling holding my diploma cover with the president. That was that got on the front cover, the annual appeal that went out yesterday for mass pay. So they're trying to raise money, and I'm trying to raise money. And yeah, I hope that scholarship goes on to help people with disabilities in the future. So that they can know that they can achieve whatever they won in life. And I hope this scholarship is a symbol of the spirit of MassBay. And that students who come after me can have great same experience and Butuan interviews that I did, because MassBay is just a wonderful place. And I could go on and on talking all day about her wonderful ladies. So I want to give that students that same oppotunities especially people with disabilities,

Venkat Raman  25:47  

You know Nathan. And this is really so heartwarming and so terrific to hear i i hope that it does continue. And it's not just that you got a great experience, but you turn that into something that helps kids who come after you and kids with disabilities and so kudos to you, you know, feel very good that you were able to do that. So, thank

Nathan P  26:16  


Nathan P  26:17  

I was really proud of myself. And yeah, I was glad to start it

Venkat Raman  26:30  

So you graduated from MassBay and then you transfer to Merrimack. So tell us about going from a two year to a four year institution. What was that like? And how was that experience?

Nathan P  26:44  [Transition to 4-year College]

It was okay yeah, no, I want did a small school because mass pay was such a small school mass pay has like four D 400. Something like that students. So I told the some other state universities and Massachusetts like Bridgewater State and Framingham State, and was to state because they're all proud of this mass transfer program. Well, you can Siemens really transfer your credits from Massachusetts public institution to another public institution. So I taught some of that those colleges and there were just too big and UMass Boston and UMass Amherst alone, were way too big. So I didn't want to go there. I really want to to keep up the smallness of the campus, I was really one good, a place that was small. And I could I could survive and I that had small class sizes, and no welcoming community and individualized attention. Their classes at Miramax our later bigger than they were at MySpace, but not by much the average class size is 22 students at Mila Mac, so that was okay for me. And Merrimack has a Augustinian background because it's a Catholic school. And it has it centered around service learning and helping that community which I really enjoy. That's when my interest giving back to the community like I did that mass pay and sell so many places. So why wanted that so I I tore different schools around like the winter of last year and the spring time. And I applied in the fall and made my decision in the spring. I went to accepted students days and all of that. And I participated in a new student orientation and in June and I started in August, and like I said, I just got home from finishing my first semester. And it was a little rough. It had its ups and downs, but it's so okay. I'm looking forward to starting back up in January.

Venkat Raman  31:06  

Now, this was the first time you were staying on campus, right. MassBay you are commuting from home, right?

Nathan P  31:14  

Yes. Yeah, my, I am living in the dorms. And it is okay. No, I was looking forward to having a roommate. That didn't work out during the first like, week or so. So I unfortunately had to move. And I don't have a roommate now. But it's okay. And now why I enjoy being living on my own. And hopefully I can have a roommate next semester, or when I go back in January. But we'll see how that all plays out. I am, during my already closed declared my major.

Nathan P 32:23  [Social Justice Major]

I am studying social justice. I like social justice is a major that not everybody thinks about. But it is really helping other people and advocating for people who are sort of marginalized than us to size by society and don't really have a voice. Like people of color, LGBT, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, things like that.

Venkat Raman  33:12  

Very good. Is that? Are you enjoying it? Is that Is that what you're

Nathan P  33:16  

Yes, that's one of my passions. And I really hope to graduate and work, maybe go to grad school down the line. But I want to work for a couple years and then see where it takes me. I maybe want to find a job at Mass pay after I graduate because it was such a rewarding experience. And I'm really thankful for the opportunities that gave me but other than that I might want to work in the nonprofit or for a governmental agency.

Venkat Raman  34:15  

Now let me ask you this, what are you doing outside of class? What did you do in this first semester, on campus or other social activities or civic engagement activities?

Nathan P  34:27  [Campus Activities]

I join student government as well because I really love student government data. Pay I really wanted to do that again. So we listen to the students concerns and advocate for them. And we have weekly meetings that we attend and then I participated in service learning, where you go out into the community. And then you come back, and then you reflect on the experience and a couple of my classes, two out of the three classes will legend classes. So when focused on St. Augustine because that's their foundation of mula maggots and Augustinian college founded by Augustinian monks. So, we learned about St. Augustine and went out and to the community, and so down neighbors in lowland San Lo and power. That experience was, I was proud of this community called the Austin scholars, which is a community well, it's community based. So they do lots of syllabus to our tweets and leadership opportunities this semester, as a book classman, I was able to go up to the White Mountains in New Hampshire, and just sort of it was a nice weekend of reflection. And just being away from campus, we took a walk in the woods and did some team building. So I Bucha to learn to use like that. As upperclassmen, you get to participate in lots of leadership opportunities with that. So I like that aspect of community.

Venkat Raman  37:21  

Fantastic, I'm glad, I'm glad you're finding things that you can get engaged in.

Venkat Raman  37:31  

Let's switch gears a bit. I'd like you to, you know, based on your experience now so far and championing so many things, what kind of advice would you give high school kids, especially ones with disabilities? What kind of advice would you give them as they prepare for college?

Nathan P  37:55  [Advice for High Schoolers]

Seek out different opportunities. If you, um, in high school, see what you like, see, if you're interested in something, you don't realize the support, especially for people with disabilities, if you are a different learner, like I was, you sort of figure out different things to figure out transition planning, and you all on I piers and fiber flows, and you have a great team of supporters behind you. So my advice would be just to utilize your support, work with your support team, that's what I did. And just, you know, figure it out one day at a time if you're, and if you're passionate about something. Go for it. But you don't have to know either way, what you're passionate about. You can experiment, take classes in all different areas and figure out what you like and just have fun. Your youth is sort of it has no limit. You're young and still figuring out what you like to do. And just Yeah, have fun and enjoy it.

Venkat Raman  40:01  

Nathan, we are going to start winding down this podcast. But before we sign off, I would like you to share some memory or some anecdote or something that you want the listeners to know about or hear about something we may not have covered.

Nathan P  40:25  [Memories]


Being a person with a disability, it's easy for people to judge us. And especially, I've done all kinds of advocacy and getting involved in local politics and civic engagement. And, therefore, things around the community. Well, I live in New tin. We I don't know just everyone has a different challenge that they face in their lives. We all love challenges, everyone is unique. And don't judge us. Everyone learns differently. Just take the time to get to know us. Get the time to hear our stories and hear what we have to say. And if you see a person with a disability, be patient, and kind, and just be open, just be open. Because you never know well, people might have been or where they're coming from, and what their life was like before this, so I just My life's motto was in a world you can be anything we kind that's what I always tell people.

Venkat Raman  42:29  

That's fantastic. Nathan, it's been a pleasure talking to you. This is a very inspiring story and discussion. I thank you so much for taking the time and sharing what you've been able to do and how you made your way from school to college to a four year college now. I wish you all the success. And I'm sure we'll talk again, but for right

Nathan P  42:59  

away. Yes. Thank you so much for having me. And I really enjoy sharing my story and it's my pleasure to do this. So thank you.

Venkat Raman  43:13  

Thank you. Happy Holidays, and I will stay in touch.

Nathan P  43:18  

Thank you, you too. Bye. Bye bye.


Venkat  43:27  [Close]

Hi again!

Hope you enjoyed our inspiring podcast with Nathan Persampieri on his undergraduate journey.

Nathan takes his challenges head-on.

He is involved in the student community, by being part of the student government to effect change.

He set up the scholarship at MassBay to help others like him attend MassBay.

Now, after transferring to Merrimack to pursue a 4-year college program, he is continuing his advocacy and civic engagement.

I hope you find Nathan’s story amazing, and drive to challenge yourself.

For your questions or comments on this podcast, please email podcast at almamatters.io [podcast@almamatters.io].

Thank you all so much for listening to our podcast today.

Transcripts for this podcast and previous podcasts are on almamatters.io forward slash podcasts [almamatters.io/podcasts].

To stay connected with us, Subscribe to Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify or visit anchor.fm forward slash almamatters [anchor.fm/almamatters] to check us out.

Till we meet again, take care and be safe.

Thank you!

Is College in US for you?