Carlos Velazquez: City of Milwaukee Firefighter
South Division High School Class of 1994
When Carlos Velazquez entered Milwaukee Public Schools’ South Division High School as a junior after moving to Milwaukee from Puerto Rico, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life. He found direction and inspiration from staff at South Division.
“The teachers there helped me look at different ways I could develop myself and look at different career opportunities,” Velazquez remembers. “I had the chance to be exposed to many different career opportunities including manufacturing and engineering.”
Computer engineering appealed to Velazquez, who enrolled at Milwaukee School of Engineering. But within a year, he was back at South Division, this time volunteering to help students with their college and financial aid applications. School staff recognized his dedication, and within a year he was working as a paraprofessional at South while also attending school full time, now at UW-Milwaukee for degrees in environmental engineering and biological science. In 2002, Velazquez’ role at South Division changed again when he was named coordinator of the Community Learning Center.
As he continued to seek out ways to serve others, Velazquez’ couldn’t shake his longtime thoughts of becoming a firefighter. He remembers the impression a tour of a fire station had on him during elementary school. In third grade he’d even written an essay about how he wanted to be a firefighter when he grew up.
Velazquez has pursued his renewed dream of becoming a firefighter with a passion. He’s stationed at a firehouse on Milwaukee’s south side and is a member of both the highly-skilled Heavy Urban Rescue and Dive Rescue teams. He’s a member of one of Milwaukee’s most popular Latino bands, Orquesta Veneno. And in his spare time, Velazquez can still be found at South Division and other Milwaukee Public Schools, teaching young people about fire safety and encouraging them to pursue their dreams.
The advice Velazquez shares with students today is the same advice his South Division teachers shared with him: “Surround yourself with the right people. Make the best of your time and plan ahead to increase your options. Every decision you make in your life matters.”