By SHERIDAN ROY
After graduation from Southington High School in 2005, Matt Galka, now an Emmy award winning reporter for KSAZ Fox 10 in Phoenix, Arizona, couldn’t wait to flee his hometown.
“When I was younger, I very much had a ‘love/hate’ relationship with Southington. The SHS football team was great, but after high school and college, the last place I wanted to be was Southington,” said Galka. “I wanted to see the world, experience more, and I felt stuck.”
However, once he set out on his journey and took his first job in Tallahassee, Fla., he experienced what he called a “major culture shock.”
“My hometown taught me a lot about good people, hard work, and staying true to myself,” said Galka. “I’ve always had a lot of support in Southington whether it’s from family who still lives there, or lifelong friends I met there. Southington has always been a rock solid foundation for the life I’ve been trying to build.”
Galka called on that very support system to help him succeed and land him where he is today. One of the newest inductees on the SHS Wall of Honor, his path led him from Syracuse University (class of 2009) to Quinnipiac University (class of 2011), to NBC Connecticut, to WCTV in Tallahassee where he was awarded the Associated Press “best overall reporter” recognition.
From there, he went on to be a reporter for Capital News Service in Tallahassee and an adjunct professor of journalism at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. He currently reports for KSAZ Fox 10 in Phoenix, where he resides.
Though Galka’s early-on aspirations pictured him as a National Football League star, he learned he had another gift: communication.
“I had always enjoyed storytelling, and I liked journalism, so I set out on the path to try and make the dream of reporting a reality,” said Galka.
The reporter said he “got lucky” along the way, forming a relationship with the Quinnipiac graduate journalism program director Richard Hanley.
“He put me in contact with Kevin Nathan at NBC Connecticut. I consider both of them my mentors, and I really wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without them,” said Galka.
He also accredited several teachers and coaches from Southington schools for making an impact on his young life—one of which, elementary music teacher Mrs. Janet Krom, is “probably the reason I’m able to go in front of a camera every day,” Galka said.
“When she played the piano, the room came alive, or at least it did for me,” he said. “She saw something in a shy, overweight kid and cast me in school plays and helped me conquer speaking in front of crowds, and helped me tap into my personality.”
Galka’s high school days were often inspired through his experiences on the football team. Coaches Jude Kelly, Mike Prairie, Tony Mazzarella Sr. and Tony Mazzarella Jr. each pushed, supported and inspired him—both on and off the field.
He also enjoyed classes with history teacher Bob Brown and physical education teachers Jim Gleason and Dave Yanosy.
“Classes were fun, and they cared about their students,” said Galka. “Anyone who tells you teachers don’t have the power to make a difference is dead wrong.”
Through and through, Galka said his biggest supporters have been his parents, who are longtime Southington residents and have great pride in the town.
Galka’s advice for current students is to create goals, follow them, and ignore others who try to set limits on you.
“There were people at every stage of my life who told me I wouldn’t be able to do something,” he said. “I regret that I’ve held on to some of these things for so long, but at the same time, I’m not sure I could have had better motivation. People are always going to try and bring you down, but if you’re willing to work hard for something—and as Jude Kelly used to say—if you do the right things right, good things will happen.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at SRoy@SouthingtonObserver.com.