By Marie Donovan
LOWELL -- He's only 28, but Michael Jarvis has already gone through a few life plan one-eighties.
As a student at Lowell High School, Jarvis was a four-year member of the Air Force Jr. ROTC and earned outstanding cadet medals his junior and senior years, while serving as commander of the championship exhibition rifle drill team.
After earning a full ROTC scholarship to UMass Lowell and completing his freshman year as an engineering major, he did his first round about, switching majors to management and accepting an honorable discharge as he put off any future military plans for at least a while.
"I actually went from being on scholarship to paying my way," said Jarvis, who then served as a resident advisor in a university dorm.
Just when it looked like the lifelong city resident would start a career in business, things changed again. Jarvis, who had begun working as a substitute teacher for special education students at Lowell High School to help pay for his last year of school, liked it so well, he ended up going for his teacher's test -- which he passed -- and switched plans again to embark on a third career path.
"I have a high level of patience working with kids, especially the ones needing more help," he said.
A 2005 UML graduate, Jarvis has spent the past six years teaching students with special needs, including five years at the LHS Therapeutic Alternative Day program for kids with emotional disabilities and this past year at the Lowell High School Freshman Academy.
"I teach fundamentals of Algebra and fundamentals of science for students with ADHD and other specialized disabilities," he said.
In addition to all of his career plan changes, Jarvis, who was on the baseball and swim teams at LHS, has had a steady backup career as a seasonal lifeguard and assistant aquatics coordinator for the Lowell Recreation Department since 1999.
It may sound unlikely that he has time to do much else with his dual careers, but Jarvis has been such a dedicated volunteer for UML and his fraternity, Sigma Phi Omicron -- where he served alternately as social chairman, vice president and treasurer as a student -- he was honored last week by the university with its outstanding recent alumni award.
"Last year I put on Sigma Phi Omicron's annual alumni golf tournament and I'm currently assisting with the organization of the Christopher Sullivan 5K road race to benefit Wounded Warriors," he said.
The race is held in honor of a fraternity brother who was killed in service, said Jarvis, who also serves on the new UML Greek Alumni Council, has a master's degree in curriculum instruction from Fitchburg State and is currently working toward his doctorate in educational leadership from Northeastern.
He also finds time to play in two city softball leagues and to take care of his 3 1/2 -year-old Great Dane, Shelby.
"She's like my kid," Jarvis said.
A Dean's List student throughout his time at UML, he also currently shows up at 6:30 a.m. every day to volunteer as coach of the same ROTC Drill Form team he belonged to as a student at LHS.
This year, the team took third place in speech and fifth in exhibition of about 30 teams participating at the nationals.
"We finished first in New England," Jarvis said.