This is a story of friendship. It is also a story of compassion. And, if truth be told, also of a bit of nagging.
Vikas Matta and Ariel Guzman met at Piscataway Vo-Tech and became fast friends. That continued even when Guzman joined the U.S. Marines in 2010, through 10 years in active service, and while Matta sold cars, trying to figure out what to do with his life.
Matta, who is from Iselin, decided college was in his future, and came to Middlesex County College in 2017. He thrived there, graduating with high honors in 2019 with a degree in Liberal Arts/Business. He immersed himself in college – joining Quo Vadis, the school newspaper; Democracy House, the service learning program; Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society for two-year colleges; and College Assembly, the body that makes recommendations to the College president about policy. He was recently named a recipient of the New Jersey State Governor’s Jefferson Awards, based on his extraordinary volunteerism and public service.
Matta transferred to Rutgers New Brunswick, majoring in business. In late 2020, he was awarded a Bank of New York Mellon scholarship.
All the while, he was nagging Guzman about coming to College. Guzman wasn’t particularly interested, but Matta persisted. Guzman left active service last year, and he was exploring career options over the summer.
“I’ve been trying to persuade him to go to college for a while,” Matta said. “So in November or December, I did the application and paid his application fee.”
But there was a catch. Guzman didn’t have a laptop. So Matta took part of his scholarship money and bought one for him.
“He was complaining about having to buy a laptop,” Matta said. “So I said, ‘If that’s the issue, I’ll buy it for you. I hope this will help in bringing you one step closer to your goal.’ I hope he can keep furthering his education. And I hope this pushes other veterans to come to college as well.” In fact, Matta is considering donating a laptop per year to deserving students at Middlesex.
Guzman, who grew up in Perth Amboy but now lives in Edison, is now a Sergeant in the Marine Reserves. He is also a student in the Business program at Middlesex.
“Vikas is something else,” Guzman said. “He’s the type of person – he wants everybody around him to succeed. He wouldn’t be content with having a dollar in his pocket if the person next to him doesn’t have one. He’s the type of person who will always be there for you. You can rely on him 110 percent.”