Michael Boccella ’07
In August 2003, I arrived at Bucknell for what would become a life-changing journey. Along with my new teammates, I reported to campus early for preseason football practice. Like many freshmen making the leap from high school to collegiate athletics, I quickly realized I was no longer the biggest, strongest or best player on my team. In fact, I realized that every ounce of my ability and work ethic would be needed just to keep up. A few weeks later, as more students arrived on campus and classes began, I had a very similar realization about academics. I quickly saw how intellectually gifted my classmates were and that I would have to push myself just to keep up. When I applied to Bucknell, it was my reach school, academically and athletically. But it was not until I arrived that I fully appreciated just how big the stretch would be.
For the next four years, I worked very hard, and gradually the talent gap — on the football field and in the classroom — diminished. My coaches, professors, advisers, teammates, classmates and friends were there for me at every turn. One of the many things that separates Bucknell from other Division I schools is that academics come first. Our coaches demanded that we go to every class, sit in the front row and be early. The professors did not give athletes special treatment — if anything, they expected more from us. The results speak for themselves. During my time at Bucknell, we boasted a 100% student-athlete graduation rate and were among the leaders in the nation in Academic All-American and All-District recognitions. I had a rich and rewarding experience at Bucknell academically and athletically, and most important, I graduated with honors, ready for anything.
Michael Boccella
Photo: Diana Boccella
Michael Boccella ’07 celebrated spirit week at his school with daughters Aly (left) and Alexa.
Like most Bucknell graduates, I had little trouble immediately finding a job in my field. I was thrilled to fulfill my childhood goal of becoming a teacher. My experiences at Bucknell prepared me well for the technical aspects of the job, but Bucknell also gave me confidence and the mindset that I could do anything. After only a few years of teaching, I became the dean of students at my school — a quasi-administrative job dealing primarily with student behavior and welfare. That quickly evolved into a bona fide administrative position — assistant principal.

At 27, I could not help but question whether I was ready or capable of the job, but my experiences at Bucknell made me realize I could handle it. I made the full leap into school leadership and have not looked back. By 29, I was a building principal, and at 31, a central office director of curriculum and instruction while working on a master’s and doctorate in educational leadership. Last fall, at 34, I achieved my dream job, becoming superintendent of schools for Valley View School District in Archbald, Pa., where my family and I reside. I’m joined at Valley View by three other Bucknellians, Corey Castellani ’94, our business manager and the person with whom I work closest, science department chair and head football coach George Howanitz ’97 and math teacher Joe Zabielski ’95.

To this day, I keep a copy of my preseason training camp schedule in my top-right desk drawer as a daily reminder that no matter what I face, I am well-prepared, ready and can succeed. I know that I would not have moved as quickly in my career had it not been for Bucknell University.

And while I love being superintendent, it is not my most important job: being a dad is. On a daily basis I try to model for my two lovely daughters, Aly and Alexa, what Bucknell has taught me: the importance of setting lofty goals, working hard and believing that anything is possible.

Michael Boccella ’07 graduated magna cum laude with a major in history and minor in education.