When Isaac Mastalski does something, he does it wholeheartedly.
He applies that same principle to his education — that’s why, in his 13 years as a student, he never missed a day of school.
“I always liked going to school,” said Mastalski, who completed his final day at Indiana Area Senior High School on Tuesday. And, he said, “I just don’t get sick. Sometimes I have a cough or something, but that’s not a reason to stay home.”
The one time he was legitimately sick, school was canceled because of snowy weather.
And why stay home when classes are so enjoyable?
Mastalski said he loved to go to school not only to see his friends, but because he loved learning.
He’ll continue his passion for learning when he starts at the University of Pittsburgh as a freshman in the fall, double majoring in chemical engineering and math.
“Ideally, I see myself as a chemical engineer,” he said. “My dream has always been to work for NASA.”
Not once during his years as a student did Mastalski have to be pushed or convinced to go to school — he enjoyed getting up in the morning knowing that it was a school day.
Isaac’s father, Mike Mastalski, said he and wife Beverly are proud of his attendance.
“He truly does have 100 percent attendance for all of those years,” he said.
As a teacher, Mike knows that if a student misses a day, that student is missing something in a sequence.
“You have to be there if you want to do well. (Isaac has) always taken that to heart.”
And he has done well.
The 18-year-old is finishing off the school year with accolades such as the University of Pittsburgh’s Chancellor’s Nominee Scholarship, which will award him $10,000 a year to attend the school; the National Merit Scholarship, in which he was the only Indiana County student to receive the recognition and one of 8,000 “distinguished” students across the country to receive the $2,500 funding, according to its website; an AP scholar with distinction from the College Board; the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania PHEAA Certificate of Merit; and the Bausch and Lomb Honorary Science Award.
He’s participated in the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra; the Indiana University of Pennsylvania String Project; the IUP Honors Quartet; the Student Government Association; Mock Trial; Quiz Bowl; and Math Team. Plus, he’s been the statistician for the girls’ volleyball team, where he even was awarded a letter.
Throughout the years, one of his biggest motivations and passions, he said, was and continues to be music.
Mastalski has played the viola for nine years and said that he’s proud of his musical accomplishments.
“I’m usually not a very emotional person, I’m very analytical,” Mastalski said. “But when I’m playing the viola I can be emotional with it. … I really get into the music. It’s just a part of me — you feel it inside you.”
Some of his fondest high school memories were those that he shared with fellow musicians at events such as the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association’s music festivals held annually. Mastalski performed at the state-level festival all of the three years that he was eligible to audition, seated as a third-chair viola during this year’s concert.
“Last year’s (festival) was the best (experience) I’ve ever had,” he said. “It was just fantastic and the music we played was amazing.”
He said he remains close with friends he made during the festivals.
“When you’re 50 you won’t be able to play a sport anymore,” Mastalski said, which is why he didn’t participate in athletics. “You’ll always be able to play an instrument.”
He hopes to continue playing as a member of Pitt’s orchestra.
With his final days complete at Indiana High, he’s set to graduate today during a ceremony at the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex. Because school has been such a big part of his life, he knows that everything is “going to be so different now.”
When he starts at Pitt in the fall, he’s looking forward to the new independence that he will have, and the experiences that he will see while living in the city.
“He’s an amazing student, talented and gifted,” Isaac’s father said.
Attendance is something he plans to keep up throughout it college career, and he encourages members of the graduating class of 2014 to keep that in mind as they begin their next chapters.
“Whatever you do,” he said, “be there and give it your all.”