For some, running for class president is a way to move up (or onto) the high school social ladder. For Matthew Stroia, it was the springboard into a career in politics.
In his high school election, Stroia, now chief of staff for Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), bested an all-female field after being encouraged by his friends to enter the race.
His victory gave him an amateur taste of the political arena, but the native Pennsylvanian sensed he had a knack for the trade.
“That’s kind of when it started,” Stroia told Roll Call.
Still, Stroia wasn’t completely decided on his future occupation by the time he arrived at Penn State University as an undergraduate. His freshman year his major remained undeclared. But as in high school, where it took the prodding of his friends for him to enter into a dalliance with politics, it took a friend in college to persuade him to earn his degree in political science.
“I knew I wanted to come to D.C. With a political science major, there’s really not too much you can do,” Stroia said.
He packed his bags and left the Keystone State, armed with nothing but two months’ worth of savings and the hope of landing a job on the Hill.
After two years in the office of then-Rep. Jim Gibbons (R-Nev.) as a legislative assistant, Stroia exchanged his political hat for an academic one, embarking on a five-year graduate school journey that was two years for a master’s in theology and three years for a law degree, both from Regent University.
His two years of seminary were sparked by an internal desire to acquire a firmer understanding of his faith.
“There was something that just wanted to deepen my faith and really understand the dynamics of what I believe,” Stroia said.
After wrapping up graduate school, his faith led him to partner with his roommate from seminary to launch the non-denominational DC Metro Church in September 2007. Located in Crystal City near the Pentagon, the church began with 250 people on its inaugural Sunday. Today, more than 1,400 people crowd the pews on a typical Sunday, Stroia said.
In the midst of his Congressional duties, Stroia remains active in the church. He takes to the pulpit every other month or so, and he serves on the church board.
But even with the joy his pastoral duties brought him, Stroia couldn’t rid himself of the Congressional itch.
“[I had] a passion for the institution,” Stroia said.
In March 2008, he found himself back in the political game, using his newly acquired law degree to land a job as legislative counsel for then-Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.).
While Congress and the church differ in their philosophy and aim, Stroia believes his work in both institutions shares a common thread: the opportunity to serve people.
“It’s still in the arena of service to some sort of constituency, whether it be a people of faith or average citizens. It’s a way to serve,” he said.
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