Have you ever met someone and just know there’s something extra special about them?  I knew there was something extra special about Solomon Matthews the very first time I laid eyes on this ever smiling and energetic New Orleans native who now calls Los Angeles home.

Our paths crossed during an orientation session at the University of Southern California (USC) where he is on track to receive his Master of Education in Postsecondary Administration and Student Affairs (PASA) degree in May. At USC he serves as the PASA Network President as well as the Vice-President of USC’s Black Graduate Student Network. 

After graduation, Solomon hopes to begin his career in student affairs at the USC or one of the many higher education institutions in the Los Angeles area. An avid believer in giving back to his community – no matter what city he calls home, he hopes to one day create a non-profit in New Orleans with his mother and younger sister to serve the parents of marginalized students in helping them prepare their children for college admission. 

Raised by a single parent who founded the organization Parent University, Inc. knowing that the success or failure of a student is reliant upon the direction and guidance of a parent or guardian starting at an early age. As a family, they hope to receive grant funding to help share the success of their family unit with others. Solomon’s younger sister is a Gates Millennium Scholar and is now earning her Master of Education in Student Personnel in Higher Education at the University of Florida. He and his sister dedicate all of their success in academia to their mother. 

Solomon’s mother is one of his biggest influences to work in the field of education. She worked as an early childhood educator for over 18 years and always instilled in her children the value of a good education. He greatly appreciates the countless sacrifices she made for their family and works hard each day to show his gratitude. Growing up poor, Solomon understands what it means for his mother to see her son at one of the nation’s top private research institutions. There is not a day that goes by that he does not feel an overwhelming sense of gratefulness as he walks around campus. He has had much success as a student at USC and is hopeful that he finds success as a professional in Los Angeles area.

I was honored to be able to create a portrait of Solomon while on vacation in February as we both celebrated our birthdays. I know I take February too seriously, I just can't help it. Here are a few of the images we created. #fighton