Michael DeRenzo ’26 values volunteering, promoting cultural-minded education at Gettysburg

Michael DeRenzo ’26
Michael DeRenzo ’26

For Michael DeRenzo ’26, a kind heart, an open mind, and a desire to make a difference can positively impact another person’s life. Working as a care manager in an assisted living facility during the summer after his high school graduation opened his eyes to the importance of fostering connections with people. Today, DeRenzo turns to volunteering to raise awareness about how cultural-minded education can build community and create a more just world.

Originally from Orlando, Florida, DeRenzo grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia. When applying to colleges, DeRenzo knew he wanted to attend a liberal arts and sciences school in Pennsylvania—“a place that focuses on the individual. I wanted to be engaged. I wanted to take part in my classes,” he said.

He saw all these characteristics reflected at Gettysburg College. Gettysburg’s diverse campus culture offered him endless options to become acquainted with members of the College community from around the country and the world.

“Gettysburg has great clubs, collaboration with students and faculty, and diversity,” he said. “Coming into the College, I was blown away by how many people I got to know. What impresses me is how everyone is working and coexisting with another and respecting one another.”

“There are so many ways to look at the world, and with the number of people I’m working with who share so many different views, I think that’s what boosted my civic-minded engagement.”
Michael DeRenzo ’26

DeRenzo acknowledges Gettysburg International and Global Studies Department faculty members such as History Prof. Bill Bowman and Prof. Abou Bamba for fostering in him the value of intercultural diversity. He also took an eye-opening course with Anthropology Prof. Matthew Amster. “It changed my perspective on how to look at life and people,” he said.

Throughout his first year at Gettysburg, DeRenzo said the coursework he encountered gave him opportunities to research and investigate many topics in the international world, from world history to international relations.

“There are so many ways to look at the world, and with the number of people I’m working with who share so many different views, I think that’s what boosted my civic-minded engagement.”

Michael DeRenzo sit outside
Michael DeRenzo ’26 connects with worldwide volunteers with The Borgen Project from the Gettysburg College campus.

Building networks through volunteerism

Seeking a volunteer or internship opportunity connected to his major, international and global studies, DeRenzo discovered The Borgen Project, an international organization that advocates for mobilizing and lobbying for an end to global and domestic poverty.

Volunteering with The Borgen Project gave DeRenzo firsthand experience to hone teamwork and communication skills. During his service with The Borgen Project, he joined volunteers worldwide as they contacted U.S. and state legislatures and other national and international government agencies to share the organization’s message about combatting poverty. Much of the volunteer work he’s undertaken on behalf of The Borgen Project has involved using social media and other public relations tools for information sharing and raising awareness about the plight of global poverty.

While he admits the scope of responsibilities—hosting a fundraiser and sharing public-focused messages—was initially outside his comfort zone, DeRenzo soon found meaning and purpose in volunteering. Connecting with like-minded volunteers across the globe on a mission to combat poverty has given him an appreciation for strength in numbers—confronting a global problem by approaching it through a collective effort. Volunteering, he said, also allowed him to view engagement and involvement as something that anyone who wants to make a difference can do.

“This experience taught me how to build networks,” he said. “In the span of a month, I was able to go from joining a group I had never heard of, The Borgen Project, to taking part in a Zoom meeting with staff from the office of Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey Jr. To go from nothing to speaking with a senator’s office goes to show that connections are easier and a lot closer than what you think.” He is looking forward to identifying a future internship that offers similar opportunities and goals.

To that end, DeRenzo advocates for civic-minded education and civil engagement in discussing and strengthening democracy, community, youth, and equity. He encourages Gettysburg students to think about ways they can get involved in creating the change they want to see in the world, including here at Gettysburg, by volunteering for a cause or organization they care about.

Finding and pursuing purpose at Gettysburg

Approaching the challenges to ending poverty through a global lens, DeRenzo hopes to participate in a study abroad experience in Africa, more specifically Cameroon or South Africa, before graduating from Gettysburg.

“I want to understand culture—why people think a certain way,” he said. “It’s a desire to understand people.”

“A Consequential Education to me means stepping outside your comfort zone…. Gettysburg College provides students something unique that can’t be replicated anywhere else.”
Michael DeRenzo ’26

In a similar way, he appreciates each day learning more and more about Gettysburg College’s distinct culture. It’s one forged by the many people who study, work, and serve here, an environment where every member of our community can find themselves, be themselves, and thrive. He experiences this community and diversity firsthand as a member of the College’s International House, one of several themed student residences at Gettysburg.

A Consequential Education to me means stepping outside your comfort zone,” he said. From campus residences to the Dining Center, Gettysburg students experience something different than what they’ve previously encountered at home—wherever home may be for them,” he explained. “Gettysburg College provides students something unique that can’t be replicated anywhere else. That to me is A Consequential Education.”

As he reflects on three semesters of living and learning at Gettysburg, the College’s distinctive people, place, and approach to a lifechanging liberal arts and sciences education have set him on the path to finding and pursuing his purpose in life.

“Life is about trying to achieve happiness and trying to achieve satisfaction in oneself,” he said. “I’m trying to find what that is for me, and in the meantime, I’m trying to find a career that will make an impact.”

Visit Gettysburg College and learn more about how the Gettysburg Approach invites students to explore culture, tradition, and ways to make an impact through our distinctive community.

By Michael Vyskocil
Photos by Abbey Frisco
Posted: 01/16/24