Fire chief tells men of color that you do not have to have a charmed life to be successful.
By Sasha D. Robinson
Fire Chief Manuel Casarez of Universal City Fire Department let students know there will be obstacles, such as failing in school and life.
He spoke at the Envision Conference 2017, a four-hour conference Oct. 6 in the nursing complex hosted by SACMEN.
“I want them to know that they are OK as long as they focus on their goal and not to let any of their obstacles derail their plan and future,” Casarez said in an interview after the event. “Instead to look at the obstacles as rooms of improvement and to grow. I certainly have been through that dealing with the struggles with trying to go through college and having a family. It is OK to have the struggles as long as you focus on the goal.”
Casarez said when he attended this college, he was placed on academic probation and lost his financial aid because he failed a couple of semesters.
He had to pay for his classes until he was able to bring up his GPA.
“I had to save up the money to come back and pay out of pocket,” Casarez said.
When he was attending this college, Casarez he heard a lot of negative feedback.
“A lot of people were saying that I was wasting my time. I was dreaming. I was never going to make it and there is too much competition,” Casarez said. “Rather than let that get me down, I used it as fuel to keep me moving forward.”
Other obstacles he talked about was having a family and juggling school, not passing the Accuplacer and being put in remedial classes.
“I felt I was wasting my time with remedial classes,” Casarez said. “As you start failing these classes, you understand, well, there is a reason you are in those classes, and it almost derailed me. I was not a straight A student in high school so that did not help.”
Casarez attended this college in 2001 and received his associate degree in fire science in 2012.
He received his bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M-San Antonio in fire and emergency services administration in 2015 and is attending Texas State University, studying in the certified public manager program for certification.
Casarez has been the fire chief of Universal City Fire Department for the past two years but has been a fire fighter since 2003.
When he graduated from the academy, Casarez volunteered at the Universal City Fire Department before getting hired at the Northwest Fire Department of Bexar County, where he worked 2004-05.
He worked for the City of Lockhart Fire Department from 2005-06 and then with Universal City in 2006.
In one of the breakout sessions, Richard Farias, interim dean of student success, spoke about how to overcome obstacles, such as how Casarez became successful.
“He is only 35 and is the fire chief of Universal City, and he is able to share that it was not an easy path,” Farias said. “A lot of people look at successful people and think they have it easy, but everyone has their struggles.”
Casarez wants students to never lose hope and there is always a way to overcome any obstacle and to keep moving forward and focus on their goals.
According to the Envision 2017 conference flyer, the free conference is for men to learn about leadership, applying for scholarships, social media habits, sexual habits and connecting with college resources.
In another breakout session, Alamo Colleges crime prevention Officer Chris Fairbank gave a lecture on what not to share when using social media and what employers look for on social media pages.
“Be careful what you put on social media,” Fairbank said. “Be careful what you say and post on social media because that stuff will get back to your employer, friends and family. It can ruin your career and your life. That is the last thing we would want for anyone.”
Fairbank talked about a Facebook post by Pamela Ramsey Taylor, director of the Clay County Development Corporation in West Virginia. She was fired after calling former First Lady Michelle Obama an “ape in heels.”
According to Nick Allen’s Nov. 15 article “West Virginia official who called Michelle Obama an ‘ape in heels’ fired following outcry,” in the telegraph.co.uk, not only was Taylor removed from her job, but Beverly Whaling, the mayor of Clay, WV resigned because she responded to the Facebook post by saying, “Just made my day, Pam.”
San Antonio College Men’s Empowerment Network, or SACMEN, fosters authentic fellowship through leadership development, peer mentoring through service, identity and relationships, scholarships for men of color and college outreach for local high schools.
For more information about SACMEN, call Mona Aldana-Ramirez, director of student success, at 210-486-1419 or visit the website Alamo.edu/sac/MEN/.