Decarlo Donaldson doesn’t like to talk much about his past. He prefers to focus on the most recent three years and the opportunities he has been given through Florida Career College that led him to being named Graduate of the Year by the Florida Association of Post-Secondary Schools and Colleges (FAPSC) and to a promising career working at the school he loves.
2019 was the year Decarlo decided his life needed some drastic changes. He knew he was wasting his time in dead-end jobs and some of the decisions he was making in his personal life were dangerous. To make a long story short, one day, he was shot.
“I couldn’t walk for a small period of time. I lost myself,” he said. “I needed something to give me fulfillment mentally, other than what was in front of me. What was in front of me was a lot of death, incarceration, poverty. There was really no way out. I felt like if I could just get an education to get me out of this situation, I might be able to change my kid’s future… I just tied my shoes and kept walking a different direction.”
“I knew I would get a lot of hands on training in a short period of time,” he said. “I had already been to a few other schools and I would have had to be there for two to four years and I didn’t have the time. I wasted too much time in my youth. I needed an accelerated head start.”
In just nine months, Decarlo finished the Computer and Network Technician Program and he immediately enrolled in the Information Technology program at FCC to earn his Associate of Applied Science Degree. He graduated with honors in just over one year.
“He can name a lot he has been through, but he came in with the right mindset,” said Ursala Clarke, Decarlo’s instructor. “He was determined to make a change in his life. He was not doing this anymore. He had an open mind. He was open to learning. If I had a few more like him, my job would be so easy. He was wonderful.”
EVERYBODY DESERVES A SECOND CHANCE
Decarlo became a leader not only in his classroom but in the school as well.
“It’s his background,” said Romaine Lindo, one of Decarlo’s instructors. “He was always a people person. I think he tried to translate that into this new environment. He was really street smart, but he understands people and how people function. That gave him an edge to benefit people. When it came time to talk to people, he knew how to relate to them at a different level than most.”
“It was an experience I found fulfillment and joy in. It gave me purpose,” Decarlo said. “I always felt like I could do anything, but I knew there were some things that might be impossible. I now have a feeling that nothing is impossible. I can do anything I want to… It’s changed my entire perception of life. It’s changed my life.”
Decarlo’s passion for the school led him back there when it came time to find a job. He was hired as an Admissions Professional at Florida Career College’s Hialeah campus. In 2022 he was nominated by the staff at Lauderdale Lakes for an award from FAPSC.
The annual FAPSC awards recognize excellent administrators, educators and students at career schools and colleges throughout Florida. The FAPSC awards committee selected Decarlo as its Graduate of the Year, recognizing his academic excellence and his leadership on campus.
“It couldn’t have happened to a better guy. I’m very proud,” said Ms. Clarke. “He deserves all the accolades. He is still kind of rough around the edges, but I’ve seen growth. I’ve seen maturity. I’ve seen dedication. It was a joy having him in my class.”
“Where I come from, it made me feel so great to be acknowledged for just about anything,” Decarlo said. “I’ve never really been noticed for anything but the bad things I did… Everybody deserves a second chance. When that second chance is given to you, don’t wait. No matter what it is from, just move forward.”