Michaela Margida – ‘Helping Others is Replenishing’

Michaela Margida ’10

“Learning new methods on the fly is the specialty of the liberal arts graduate,
and I am no exception.” – Michaela Margida ’10

Alumna creates nonprofit organization to help children

For five years, Michaela Margida ’10 has worked with her brother, mother, and father to brighten Valentine’s Day for chronically ill children in her home state of Ohio.

Through The Valentine Project, a non-profit they began several years ago, the family collects and distributes care packages for children with serious health problems and their siblings.

They came up with the idea after volunteering for Camp Quality, a weeklong summer camp for children with cancer. “Going through cancer can be lonely for patients and siblings alike, and Valentine’s Day often serves to highlight that loneliness,” Margida said.

So they decided to do something about it. This year, the organization collected candy, stuffed animals, books, and other toys for more than 300 nominated children. Once the Margida family and their network of volunteers packaged up the gifts, FedEx Ground Package System Inc. delivered them throughout the state.

Surprising the children with gifts from strangers is a way for the family to serve others, but for Margida, there is personal motivation. Though many do not know it, she is the survivor of a pediatric brain tumor. “I was only five,” she said. “But I remember enough of the ordeal that working with childhood cancer patients and those dealing with chronic illnesses is intensely personal for me. I don’t take my experience lightly, but in some small way, I guess I’m grateful for it. Because of it, I’ve had a special interest in reaching out to children whose lives are affected by illness.”

After graduation, Margida went on to earn her Master of Science degree in environmental science from Duke University. After teaching marine biology to gifted middle and high school students for Duke’s Talent Identification Program, she joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, which placed her with the Fuel Fund of Maryland. The program works to help families and individuals who cannot pay their electric bill and offers community education on reducing energy consumption and managing finances.

A request from her advisor, Song Qian, then took her to the University of Toledo, where she is pursuing a doctorate in ecology. She hopes to teach at the collegiate level.

Throughout her life, Margida has used her experiences to chart new paths and reach her goals, whether she’s been focused on her passion for serving and helping others or on her love of learning in general. Now five years out of college, she is realizing how influential her undergraduate education was to her confidence, not to mention how her experiences helped spark her passion for helping others.

“My liberal arts degree is priceless to me,” Margida said. “Learning new methods on the fly is the specialty of the liberal arts graduate, and I am no exception,” she said.

Margida believes her college career provided her with more than a solid foundation. During her years at Randolph, she joined other students in service activities, including planned efforts to spread positivity with random acts of kindness aimed at faculty and classmates.

Her advice to students is to realize that a successful life is about more than personal accomplishments or gain. “The times I’ve been happiest in my life have been when I have been focused on other people,” she said. “Helping other people is replenishing, and for me, it’s the only thing that is going to make me feel happy in a sustainable way.”