SLU instructor on active lifestyle and working towards social justice
For Matthew Mahaffey, providing inspiration for others is a daily task. From his position as a child advocacy attorney to his work as a spinning instructor, Mahaffey works towards helping people in various aspects of their lives and is seemingly never short of motivation.
Born in Montezuma, Iowa, Mahaffey started out his college education as a classical languages major at Hope College in west Michigan. After marrying and working as a youth minister for three years Mahaffey and his wife moved to St. Louis in order to pursue masters degrees in social work at Washington University. Mahaffey began practicing social work shortly afterwards at a youth employment program called Urban Strategies in northern St. Louis. Here he worked with fifteen youth that would eventually inspire him to become an attorney.
“They were great kids…very inquisitive,” said Mahaffey. The children that he worked with always had questions for him about the juvenile court system and Mahaffey’s desire to provide these kids with answers led him to pursue a law degree at Saint Louis University.
After starting out his law career in criminal defense court cases, Mahaffey began looking for a transition into a more family-friendly job. Being a father of two, he found a suitable fit working as a child advocacy attorney for the nonprofit organization Voices for Children.
“[We] represent children’s best interests who are in the foster care system,” said Mahaffey. He remarked on feeling lucky to have found such a fulfilling job. “I have been very fortunate in my professional life to work for organizations that I have both enjoyed the work and had a good time doing it as well,” Mahaffey said.
Today, Mahaffey stays in touch with SLU through morning spinning classes that he instructs at the Simon Recreation Center. Having always led a very active lifestyle, he picked up biking shortly after moving to St. Louis as he wanted to supplement his running routine with another activity. Mahaffey combined this newfound passion for biking with the free time that graduate school allowed for and became a certified spinning instructor at Washington University. He relocated these classes to the SLU Rec Center shortly after starting law school at SLU and has been an instructor at the university ever since.
“I’ve enjoyed teaching here…it’s a nice part of my day,” said Mahaffey. Using his history as a recreational biker, Mahaffey bases his classes off of the workouts that he would do outside on his road bike. He engages the class by creating a themed music playlist for each workout and encourages participants to send him music requests for the different themes.
“It’s their class, it’s not mine, so I’m trying to make it as enjoyable for them as possible,” Mahaffey said. “I kind of view it as a challenge.”
When he’s not motivating people through spinning classes or fighting for social justice, Mahaffey plays in a bluegrass band called Floyd and the Barbers and enjoys participating in his church and spending time in nature. Above all, he loves spending time with his family and teaching his children the importance of giving back – a gratification that he finds in his work.
“My passions are… with trying to use the privileges I have been given to create more equality of opportunity for people,” said Mahaffey. “…It’s never about one person. Anytime something is accomplished for a child in foster care, credit can never be given to one individual…it takes a village.”