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The Founders Society Spotlight: Matthew Carli, 2005
Class 1 - FY2011-2012
Class 2 - FY2014-2015
Matthew Carli has deep roots in Sanford – real deep. He was born in Sanford Hospital and raised in Sanford. His family has been in Sanford for over 50 years. Carli's father went to Seminole High School, his aunt taught at Seminole, and his siblings and cousins attended the school which opened 110 years ago as Sanford High School. For Carli – who attended Sanford's Pine Crest Elementary and was a pre-IB scholar at Sanford Middle School – the most likely path would have been to continue the family tradition at Seminole High School. Instead, Carli broke with tradition to be part of the first class to attend Crooms Academy of Information Technology.
Choosing to attend the upstart Crooms AoIT was definitely a risk. While Crooms Academy has a rich history dating back nearly 100 years, by 2001 the school had developed a poor reputation as it had continually changed purposes since the 1970s. The inaugural class – which Carli was a member of – had a tough sell: the campus was being rebuilt and classes were held in the old buildings; most of the faculty had never worked together; the idea of a technology magnet school with take-home laptops had never been tried; and, the reputation Crooms and 13th Street had developed over the past 40 years was a barrier for many parents not familiar with Sanford's past. Yet, as Carli recalled, attending Crooms was a risk worth taking: "At some point I looked at a list of the fastest growing professions of the next decade and nearly all of them were I.T. related. I thought Crooms AoIT might be a good choice to spark a career in technology so I could be a part of the professional opportunities that growth would provide."
By going to Crooms, Carli had a unique experience, particularly in being in the first class. With approximately 150 students during the first year, small class sizes led to an environment where the faculty knew all the students. The first class also got to set many precedents – both good and bad. One of those precedents was the creation of a plethora of clubs and sports. The students also had the opportunity to impact the curriculum and how students were taught. "I enjoyed the electives," Carli says, "The small class sizes in all classes allowed for strong academic acceleration." With a strong focus on technology and academics, the school also developed a strong reputation for professional development. "Ms. Alper's and the guidance department's efforts to create professional development programs may have been the thing I benefited most from," Carli states. He had had the opportunity to recruit students, meet school board members, interact with business professionals, and continually improve his business skills. Carli has particularly high praise for the impact these experiences had on him, "I think Crooms AoIT did a particularly good job at developing my soft professional skills and honing my personal interactions with business professionals."
Extracurricular activities proved to be another opportunity Crooms AoIT offered. "For my time at Crooms, I basically lived on campus – I really spent more time there than anywhere else," he jokes. During his freshmen year, the Class of 2005 needed to petition to create an athletic program. "Initially we were going to be on the Seminole HS teams, but our bell schedule did not allow us to do that," Carli explained, "Instead, we started up basketball team. Cross country and track were the next sports." Indeed, Crooms has many athletic activities, and Carli was a part of many of them: he was co-captain of the basketball team for three years; he ran cross country and track; during his junior year, he bowled and was the team's most valuable player; and, during senior year, he joined the volleyball team and was the MVP. Why so many sports? Carli has an answer, "Participating in sports was a game of one-upmanship between Larry Cherry – my friend, rival, and teammate – and me."
When it came to clubs, Carli was a member of the National Honor Society (including serving as President), Student Government, Business Professionals of America (he went to the national conference to compete in Cisco Networking), Student Ambassadors, BETA Club, and more. He was Male Senior Student of the Year in 2005. And, he was even Crooms AoIT's first Homecoming King and first senior Prom King.
After high school, Carli deviated from another traditional path – going straight to the University of Florida – and instead decided to attend Seminole Community College on a full scholarship. During his first semester, he got involved with the Grindle Honor Institute after some encouragement from fellow Croomie and Alumni Association Founders Society member Justin Bagley. The Institute offers advanced classes and scholarships to students seeking a challenge. Carli also got involved in various extracurricular activities. He was a part of the Leadership Challenge Team and facilitated group leadership retreats. He also served in Student Government as Student Activities Chair, served as the master of ceremony for the weekly Wind Down on Wednesday entertainment sessions (WoW), was included in the 2007 edition of Who's Who Among Students in American Junior Colleges (1 out of 15 that year at SCC), and even appeared on numerous billboards in Seminole County promoting SCC. During his last semester, Carli wrote a paper on the benefits of study abroad; his professor challenged him to put the research to the test, so he spent that summer in China and the following summer in Costa Rica.
Following Seminole Community College, Carli transferred to the University of Florida and majored in Business Management. During his two years in Gainesville, he worked as a community ambassador for his apartment complex and joined the business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi where he served as pledge class president. Carli explained he enjoyed SCC – in part – because of the small class sizes, but UF offered a different environment. "At UF, there was a lot of freedom and it was really my first time out of the Orlando area for an extended time," Carli notes, "and, the thing I enjoyed the most was the Gator heritage and tradition."
After UF, Carli joined a foreclosure defense law firm as a customer service representative for a year and a half. Recently, he transferred into banking with TrustCo Bank, where he serves as an assistant branch manager in Seminole County. At TrustCo, Carli deals in retail and personal banking. "The smaller branches at TrustCo means I get exposure to all the various personal banking product lines, from checking to HSAs to mortgages," Carli says as he explains the benefits of TrustCo. In Spring 2013, he will be going back to Crooms to teach financial literacy. In the future, he would like to go back to school for his Master of Business Administration.
- What technology and business skills from Crooms AoIT have translated into your current career skills?
My Crooms AoIT experiences definitely impacted and shaped my career and social wellbeing. Technology is the foundation of my professional skill set. There are a lot of people in the workforce that are surprised when you have a strong understanding of desktop applications, are able to handle basic networking issues, and can even delve into hardware problems. When it comes to business skills, Crooms AoIT was really a catalyst for professional development. The career-focused curriculum and extracurriculars taught me how to better engage people and even drove home some important soft skills like looking people in the eye, networking, using people's names, professional honesty and courtesy, and so forth.
- As someone who helped market a community college, what are the pros and cons of going to a community college prior to a four year university?
I think the benefits are pretty well-known. The biggest might be it is much easier to adjust to the change from a high school to a community college. There is also the benefit of more personalized attention, which can lead to better grades, better access to professors, and more opportunities to get involved in clubs and activities. Financially, community college is cheaper and there usually are more financial aid options available. Basically, the experience minimizes the changes that happen in order to allow the student to have a higher chance to succeed. The one big downside is you might miss out on the true college freshmen experience related to dorm life.
- What do you think of the creation of state colleges, and Seminole Community College's transformation into Seminole State College?
I don't see the change to a state college impacting Seminole State's biggest benefit, which is helping students transition. You still get the same benefits of smaller class sizes and personalized attention to help with the transition. The bigger thing might be reputation, but I still see the state college system serving as a transition point from high school to a full university for recent high school students.
- Any other extracurriculars or side projects?
Beyond using serving as the Crooms AoIT Alumni Association's Vice President and on the Association's Board of Directors, I am also trying to become more involved with the Crooms AoIT Business Advisory Council. In the spring, I'm looking at teaching an extracurricular class on financial skills at Crooms as well. Outside of Crooms AoIT, work keeps me busy, but I am looking to join the Sanford Chamber of Commerce.
- Are there any end goals in mind for you?
I would like to continue to pursue career opportunities that lead to upper management in business while also allowing me give back to Crooms AoIT and Seminole County. I would like to remain in Seminole County for the foreseeable future as it is home for me.
- Why did you decide to join The Founders Society?
I feel I am a Founder of Crooms AoIT by being part of the first graduating class. Crooms has also done a lot for my personal and professional development, and I want to stay involved in Crooms AoIT to ensure its future and legacy. As our alumni base continues to grow, I would also like to see the Alumni Association help facilitate professional networking between Croomies to strengthen our school's appeal.
- Any other parting thoughts you would like to leave us with?
My favorite quote that I try to remember each day – and, really try to make mine own – is, "Make it a great day or not, the choice is yours." This is, of course, the Crooms AoIT motto, and I try to make it my own personal motto in my daily life.
Updated: December 1, 2012
The Founders Society was established in 2011 to recognize the Crooms AoIT Alumni Association's most generous benefactors. These individuals, couples, or companies have made significant one-time contributions during our capital fundraising periods for the advancement of Crooms AoIT. Society members are sending a message that philanthropic support of Crooms AoIT and the current student body is vital to our alma mater's future success. Their financial support is changing lives and helps promote a culture of community support and involvement. To learn more about The Founders Society visit www.croomsalumni.com/about/founders.