At school where his father is a longtime teacher, DeMatha senior honored for community service
May 15, 2017
For graduating senior Douglas “Zach” Tschiffely, attending DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville was a family affair.
His older brother, Ross, is a 2014 graduate of the school run by the Order of the Most Holy Trinity (Trinitarians) and his father, Douglas, is a 47-year veteran teacher at the school.
“I knew since I was 10 years old that I was I was going to go to DeMatha and believe it or not, when I got here my relationship with him (the elder Tschiffely) got stronger,” Zach said. “Our relationship at home grew stronger. He is very proud of me.”
During all four of his years at DeMatha, Zach was a member of the varsity swim team and the varsity tennis team – earning letters in both sports. He was a four-year member of the DeMatha chorus program, joining the Voices of DeMatha during his senior year. As a bass clarinetist, he was a member of the school band for four years and spent his senior year as part of the school’s prestigious Wind Ensemble.
With a 3.8 grade point average, Zach is also a two-year member of the National Honor Society.
Despite his successes in the classroom, in the pool, on the tennis court and in the school auditorium, Zach was recently honored by the school for his community service efforts.
As a junior, Zach and his friend Tamara Masciola – who graduates this year from Elizabeth Seton High School in Bladensburg – traveled to Camden, New Jersey. The city has that state’s highest poverty rate. With its skyrocketing crime, murder rates, drug use and gang activity, it has been ranked as the fourth most dangerous city in America.
“We worked in homeless shelters and nursing homes and passed out food,” Zach said. “I was very inspired by the people there and how nice they were even though they were in such bad situations.
So moved by their experience, that Zach and Tamara created a “Care for Camden” week of awareness on the issue of urban poverty.
“We wanted to do something and we wanted to focus on children and teenagers our age, so we showed videos of Camden and collected clothes and coats and raised $3,000,” Zach said. The collected items and money were given to two shelters and a local Catholic parish.
Zach returned to Camden last February to distribute what he collected.
“My experience was just amazing. The people there are so nice. The first time I went, I really kind of focused on the sad parts – the poverty, the murders, the gangs,” Zach said. “The second time I focused on the positive and the amazing people there.”
For his efforts, Zach was awarded DeMatha’s Trinitarian Service Award for community service during the school’s recent awards night.
Zach’s interest in community service has led him to purse a career in social justice. In the fall, he will attend Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore where he will study political science on a pre-law track.
“I want to work as a social justice lawyer in a big city,” he said of his ultimate career goal.
Ironically, Zach’s dad – a Vietnam veteran who has been honored by the American Legion – teaches government and law at DeMatha; however, “I was never taught by my dad, and I didn’t see him much at school,” Zach said.
As a product of 12 years of Catholic education – he also attended Holy Redeemer School in College Park – Zach said he chose to attend a Catholic university because “I wanted to stay with the core values of Catholic social teaching, and I want to keep growing my faith stronger and keep a closer relationship with God.”
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