Careers Advisor Michael Rosta has been in the area his whole life and still lives in the same area where he grew up. He attended Andrean High School and played tennis during his four years there, which led him to another position he holds at the school: coaching.
“I stayed where I was. After high school I went to Purdue University Northwest (PNW) and Valparaiso University (VU) so I was always in the area and then I actually went back to Andrean and worked there for a while helping out as a coach I was only 21 but eventually I ended up here at Wheeler where they needed a tennis coach so I’ve been doing this for about fourteen years,” he said.
More than anything, it was a terrifying encounter with a rodent while in college that stopped Rosta from living the life he originally intended.
“Actually, I got to where I am today via a detour. I originally wanted to be a child psychologist, so I took a psychology course at VU. I’ll never forget being in a lab and having to work with rats,” Rosta said. “You can ask my wife and children: Mice raise the hairs on the back of my neck. I knew there was no way I would survive in this field, so I switched from psychology to social work and graduated with a degree in the latter. I worked as a homeschool counselor in the elementary schools in Union Township for a few years and then went back to school to do my masters at IUPUI.”
After earning his master’s degree, Rosta found an open position as an admissions counselor at Valparaiso University, worked there for two years, and traveled through states neighboring Indiana, enjoying the whole process.
One day, 25 years ago, however, he received a call from a Wheeler board member asking if he would like to be the school’s first master’s-level social worker. Rosta spent some time at the middle school as a student dean was needed.
In the meantime, he returned to PNW to get his advisor’s license, but there was a problem. Rosta had never served as a teacher, something usually had to be done to get the right license. Despite this, he found a way to share all his qualifications and luckily was able to participate in the program. The most important thing is that despite all the difficulties, Rosta got where he wants to be.
Thanks to Wheeler’s size, Rosta has the opportunity to develop a closer bond with each individual student assigned to him. Over the years he has quickly learned what is most important to him about the job overall.
“I love it when I meet students in ten years. I still talk to some of my tennis players who graduated years ago. If they’re in town, we still meet up and have lunch or something. I love hearing all the success stories; I love seeing them with their kids. A few weeks ago when I was at Walmart, a kid looked at me and said, ‘Mr Rosta?’ and ask me if I remember them. Of course I do! That’s what it’s about for me, to see what they’ve made of their lives,” he said. “I hope I’ve helped them get to a point where later on they’re happy that they’re getting into the program that they want and that they’re doing it because it’s a career of their choice, not just a job . I want every student to enjoy what they do and I hope I can guide them in that direction, whether they’re in high school or not.”
Rosta was lucky too. When he came to Wheeler, he was given a lot of leeway to pursue and organize the programs he wanted. He was a major contributor to the Natural Helpers program, a peer counseling service provided by and for students to help them understand one another. In addition, he will be hosting his 25th Lunch with Santa this Christmas, a lunch Rosta organizes in high school for many families in need of supplies such as clothing items. He also gives the children of these families whatever toy they choose.
“These two programs are what keep me coming back. When you come across the families or children you have helped and see how much you have helped them, there seems to be nothing bigger. I’m 55 years old and wondering how much longer I’ll be doing this. I laugh about it from time to time because my granddaughter is in kindergarten and when she finally passes the stage I’ll be 67. I’d like to give her a diploma and then hand in my resignation,” he told Rosta. “People ask me, ‘Do you want to do this for 12 years?’ I do. I really look forward to getting up in the morning because I love the people I work with and I love the children in my building. I love what I do and I try to teach my kids that. You want to find a job that you enjoy doing, that you are passionate about,”
Aside from all the tremendous work he does in and out of school, Rosta still indulges in a bit of bartending, a skill he picked up when he was 21. He also enjoys playing any golf course in the area and watching the Chicago Cubs and Minnesota Vikings.
Rosta’s family is incredibly important to him and he feels fortunate to have such a close bond with his three brothers and both of his parents. One thing he fondly remembers is the times he used to play wiffle ball with his dad and brothers in the backyard. Additionally, his wife is a two-time breast cancer survivor and his passion for her has led him to campaign for awareness of the condition through the Pink Ribbon Society of Northwest Indiana.
It’s perfectly clear that Rosta’s genuine concern for everyone around him is never below the surface, and he’s one for Union Township’s close-knit atmosphere.
“I moved to Union Township because I wanted my son to go to school here. I love the fact that he and I can come into town and visit places where we meet people we know who are like family. We know a lot of people and it has helped both us and everyone around us. For me, this is truly our home and it helps that the school is at the center of it. It has become my family. The kids I keep seeing here, stopping by, those are the ones I see every day, and we joke and laugh all the time. That’s why I’m still here and will stay here,” he said.