By: Nick Santangelo

When history major Luke Tomczuk addresses his fellow 2019 College of Liberal Arts (CLA) graduates as a student commencement speaker Friday, it will be the culmination of a journey that he’s been on virtually his entire life. Tomczuk’s mother, brother and uncle are all Temple University alumni. But Tomczuk has an even more personal connection to Temple than that.

As a young child, Tomczuk was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, which meant preschools wouldn’t accept him, but Tomczuk’s mother wouldn’t accept that. She discovered Temple University’s Institute on Disabilities, which helped her understand how the law provided ways for Tomczuk to get the education he needed. Years later, Tomczuk’s SAT score was making admission to college difficult. In came the Temple Option, a program that offers an alternative path to college entry to anyone whose potential isn’t properly reflected by standardized tests.

“So, I really felt like Temple was stitched into my DNA,” says Tomczuk. “I really felt that when I came on my campus visit in 2014 when I was still a senior in high school. So, when I looked at the campus, I just felt like it was the calmest place for me. That's why I chose Temple. I felt truly comfortable with the campus environment, and I didn't feel as comfortable on other campuses.”

In fact, Tomczuk remembers relying on that comfortability a bit too much in his freshman year before opening up more as a sophomore and searching out new experiences and new people. Ever since then, his college path has been an upward trajectory. Tomczuk got involved in student government, worked at the student center, interned at the Defense Logistics Agency and holds a GPA of 3.73.

“I felt more and more pride for being a Temple student,” he says. “I felt more and more pride for being in the College of Liberal Arts. So, to be honored with speaking at the ceremony, it's a very humbling experience for me.”

While being a commencement speaker may be humbling for Tomczuk, he certainly has shown a willingness to be ambitious while at CLA. When he discovered that the Temple student government was establishing a parliament, he was excited enough to run for the seat for Disability Resources and Services. Tomczuk felt he was well-articulated enough to be a voice for his fellow students with disabilities. He won the seat and has held it ever since, doing what he can to affect positive change.

“This past January I passed a resolution called the Abilities at Work Act,” explains Tomczuk. “And what that does is help students with Autism Spectrum Disorder gain employment, and I presented at a conference in Baltimore for student unions called the Association of College Unions International.”

Speaking of gaining employment, Tomczuk has naturally been looking to do so himself as graduation has neared. While he hasn’t landed a job yet, he’s been hunting for one and feels like he has marketable skills that will help him land one.

“I feel like a lot of the skills that I've obtained are valuable, especially my research skills as being a history major,” he says. “I rediscovered my passion for finding answers to problems through research. So, that's what I've been focusing on a lot this semester and I hope whatever comes next, which I have no idea what that is at this point, I just hope that it’ll be worthwhile.”

On Friday, Tomczuk will echo that message of using a CLA degree to do something worthwhile when he speaks before his fellow graduating students.

“This is our degree,” he wrote in his speech, “let’s change the world with what we’ve earned.”

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