Matt's friends getting ready to hike on the final day in Mali. Front row: Ryan Newton, Lisa Anderson (Matt's fellow Chad PCV and dear friend), Jessica Barry, Dan Newton, Leah Brennan. Back: Ryan Roberge, an NGO director in Mali who is from Connecticut and kindly gave his home to Matt's friends while in Mali
Announcing the Costa Memorial Scholarship through Sigma Phi Epsilon at Tulane University
This scholarship will be awarded annually in Matt’s memory to a student who embodies the characteristics so important to Matt: giving globally, sports, music, active involvement in the fraternity – simply making the world a better place. Matt loved Sig Ep and Tulane, and the hope is that this scholarship will keep his memory alive and help his “brothers” continue his good work for many years to come. The award will be presented every October in New Orleans by his family. The recipient will be selected based on the following criteria:
- a demonstrated interest in community service with a global perspective
- active involvement with the Louisiana Alpha Chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon, particularly with regard to athletics and music
- an adventurous spirit
- an interest in politics and its role in making the world a better place
- a demonstrated financial need.
If you wish to make a TAX-DEDUCTIBLE contribution to Matt’s scholarship, you may do so online here.
In the “Donor Comments” section, you MUST specify “Tulane University, Louisiana Alpha Chapter, Matt Costa Memorial Scholarship.”
Of, if you prefer to contribute by mail, you can do so by sending a check noting such to: Sigma Phi Epsilon Educational Foundation, P.O. Box 1901, Richmond, VA 23218
Donations to this scholarship can be made at any time as we hope to keep this scholarship going annually for a long time.
A Promising Life Of Giving Cut Down In Tragic Mishap
Matthew Costa, 24, of Cheshire, died Sept. 3.
November 5, 2006
By ANNE M. HAMILTON, Special To The Courant
Matthew Costa combined a deep-seated idealism with practicality and, in his own unassuming way, set an example for others.
He was a serious philosophy major who loved soccer, volleyball and the guitar, on which he played both classical and popular music.
He starred in a play in high school and was interested in politics. He was so intrigued by West Africa that he extended his Peace Corps commitment and was planning to be a lawyer so he could help others.
Costa grew up in Cheshire, the son of Frank Costa and Pam Cameron, and had a younger sister, Danielle. Wiry and athletic, he started playing soccer when he was 5 and excelled at running and jumping. He had an independent spirit: Around age 6, Costa flew alone to Washington to visit his grandparents, and the pilot invited him to sit in the cockpit.
In middle school, he participated in a student ambassador program that sent him to England, Scotland and Wales.
"He understood that the world was way bigger than Cheshire," his mother said. In high school, Costa was elected treasurer of his class.
His mathematical skills earned him a scholarship to the University of Connecticut to study actuarial science, but he turned it down in favor of a broader liberal arts education.
"He thought of college as a way of becoming an educated person, not as a vocational-technical idea," his mother said. Costa chose Tulane University in New Orleans because it offered a contrast to his Connecticut upbringing. It was in the South, in a city far from home.
His college major was philosophy, and when his grandfather urged him to be practical and think of his future, "he said he was more concerned with public service," said Bernard Levin, his grandfather. "He wanted to use law to help people who were underprivileged."
"People just liked being around him," said Todd Gilbert, a college friend. "He was incredibly funny. He made you smile."
Costa joined the Peace Corps after graduating from Tulane in 2003, offering to go anywhere. He had studied French in school, so the Peace Corps sent him to Chad, a poor, French speaking landlocked country in north central Africa where there has been sporadic fighting over the years. (The Peace Corps closed its program there this year.)
On an informal Peace Corps scale of adversity, Chad ranked among the toughest assignments.
"Chad had the reputation: If you could do Chad in the Peace Corps, you could do anything," his mother said.
In Mani, a village close to N'Djamena, Chad's capital, Costa taught English and helped start a soccer league. When he realized that the children had no concept of geography, he had them paint a large world map on a wall of the school so they could see where they lived and where he came from.
"He really wanted them to understand where they fit in the world," his mother said. The village was isolated, and sometimes his family didn't hear from him for two months at a time. But they quickly learned that he was happy.
"He loved Africa," his mother said.
After his two years in Chad were up, he asked to extend his commitment and was assigned to Mali, another French-speaking country in Africa. "He wanted to make a change on a small level and be an ambassador for America," said Chris Kennerlly, a high school friend.
Costa was assigned to Kita, a less-isolated village than his previous assignment. He had a refrigerator and a cell phone that worked. He could e-mail from a café in the village.
Besides teaching English, Costa started a weekly radio show featuring American music that made him a minor celebrity.
Malian women traditionally pound millet, a native grain, into flour, which is boiled into a porridge eaten with sauce. Costa gave them a grinder that made their job quicker and easier. He also taught Malian men how to repair water pumps.
He played on the local soccer team and worked with "Shoes for Mali" after learning that two of his players shared one pair of sneakers.
Last summer, Costa and three other volunteers decided to build a sailboat.
For their first trip, they were sailing the Niger River. Photographs show their wide smiles.
The wind propelled them more quickly than they had anticipated, so they lowered the sail. They were approaching rapids and rowing against the tide, trying to reach an inlet, when the mast hit a high-tension wire. Costa and Justin Brady, a volunteer from Oregon, were thrown from the boat. Costa and Brady died, but the other volunteers survived.
Costa had been scheduled to return to the United States two weeks later to take his law-school admissions test.
"He was very intelligent, very insightful," said Nelson Cronyn, Costa's director in Chad. "He was able to teach and stay positive with teaching, despite the fact that the school was dysfunctional and cheating was rampant."
Costa talked often about politics and his career plans. "He probably would have remained working in development," Cronyn said.
"I imagine he would have had a significant impact. … I imagine he would have been very, very successful."
To reach the family of Matthew Costa, please send an email to his mom, Pam Cameron, at email@example.com
If you are a friend or family member of this volunteer and would like to contribute a picture, a story, or something different, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.