Burke High School graduate Matthew Blackburn is living his best life.
Blackburn finished high school in 2009 and attended Miller-Motte College where he earned an Associate degree in Business Management. Hired by the school after graduation, it was at Miller-Motte where he began his career in financial aid. After a year at the Augusta campus, the educational institution transferred him to Fayetteville, North Carolina where he worked for four years. After that, he moved to Atlanta where he worked for South College.
“I have been doing financial aid for almost 10 years now,” he said.
Currently an associate director for the financial aid office for South College in Asheville, North Carolina, Blackburn is proud to be able to assist students in maneuvering through the process of obtaining the funding to earn their degrees and inspiring others to move up the economic ladder.
“To me, my story is that I started from the beginning working jobs like McDonald’s,” he said. “Now, I am able to educate the students and help them better themselves. I tell them my story about how I started from the bottom and grew my career to where I am today.”
Blackburn likes to travel and enjoys a livelihood that allows him to experience different cultures. His journey includes multiple cruises and trips to Mexico, the Bahamas, Honduras, Puerto Rico and Cuba.
“They are fun,” he said of cruises. “When you go with your family and friends, there is so much entertainment, things to do, and you meet so many interesting people.”
Blackburn likes to learn about the different cultures he explores at the ports.
“Cuba is a beautiful place,” he said and mentioned that visiting the island country that is situated where the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean meet, impressed upon him the luxuries of living in the United States. “We take it for granted how we live in the U.S.”
Cubans cannot take going to the grocery store for granted, he said. In his eyes, they live a more controlled lifestyle. However, Blackburn said he will always recall the classic cars that people drove, the colorful architecture and the beauty of the beaches.
“Even though things were different there, people were the nicest ever,” he said and pointed out how he feels fortunate to have traveled to the island during the Barack Obama administration when visiting restrictions were less stringent.
Blackburn also visited Honduras and found the Central American country with both Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean coastlines to be another amazing experience.
“I also got to hold a monkey, so that was really cool,” he stated.
Another getaway to Cozumel, Mexico had Blackburn trying out a fish spa pedicure in which Garra Rufas, also known as toothless carp, nibble away at dead skin.
“It just tickled a lot,” Blackburn said. Another cruise to Mexico had him visiting ancient Mayan ruins..
Not a cruise, but a separate trip to Puerto Rico, showed Blackburn a culture that is slightly, but not completely Americanized. He especially liked Pinchos de Pollo, grilled marinated chunks of chicken on a skewer glazed with barbeque sauce. He also spent time watching huge iguanas climbing trees.
“The difference for me was that they don’t have central air conditioning,” he said. “So, it was a little weird because I was sweating in the house with just ceiling fans.
Blackburn is planning a trip next year to Paris, where, of course, he wants to see the Eiffel Tower. In the meantime, he believes he will take another cruise in November. Eventually, his bucket list includes an Alaskan cruise.
“I plan on flying a lot more this year,” he proclaimed. “So, I do want to go to Phoenix, Arizona. I want to do a little bit more traveling in the U.S. I want to go to Colorado and New York.”
At 31 years old, Blackburn feels that he is living his life to the fullest while he focuses on growing his career. His parents are Waynesboro residents April Rametta and Michael Blackburn.
“You have to live your best life, right?” he asked laughing. “Why not?”
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