Putting others first: Kevin remakes his life to focus on service

Kevin Carr teaches a Haitian student how to use a microscope. Photo by Professor Marcia Blackburn

Kevin Carr teaches a Haitian student how to use a microscope. Photo by Professor Marcia Blackburn

When you’re given a second chance, a fresh opportunity to give back to the world, then put your heart and hands into it. Kevin Carr has learned this lesson well – and is grateful for the opportunity.

During his first attempt at college some years ago, he failed out with “a .2 GPA.” Fresh out of high school, he spent years in the darkness, losing his sense of self and filling the hole “in the usual ways,” he admitted. Five years ago, after yet another wake-up call, he asked his Facebook friends whether they knew of any camp jobs. Summer camp was an experience he remembered positively and one that could, he hoped, get him back on track.

A friend suggested the Arrowhead Bible Camp for adults with developmental disabilities. He has worked at the camp for five years and forged a new life – going to Nicaragua on mission trips twice, returning to school and earning a flawless 4.0 GPA, and aiding people in need during SUNY Broome’s Health for Haiti class.

“I just really put myself first in the past. This moment that’s happening now is because I’m really trying to do things for other people,” he explained. “I work 120 hours a week with school and my jobs. I mentor an individual with special needs on the weekends. I can do a lot of good with my life, so I don’t have the right to be tired right now.”

The importance of giving back 

Kevin Carr makes a friend in Haiti.

Kevin Carr makes a friend in Haiti.

Now 27 years old, Carr is in his final semester at SUNY Broome, where he is majoring in Individual Studies in Health Sciences and STEM. His long-term goal: become a physician assistant and help those in need.

“I find it very important to utilize what I’ve been blessed with to the best of my abilities. Medicine can tie in everything I am able to offer,” he reflected. “I really like the unity that medicine provides. As a PA, I can do a lot of different things rather than specializing.”

At SUNY Broome, he tutors fellow Hornets in biology, math, chemistry and organic chemistry, and is also a supplemental instructor for anatomy and physiology. He is also an integral part of campus life, serving as Student Assembly’s vice president of student affairs, co-president for the Tutor Club and a member of the President’s task Force on Diversity and Inclusion. He finds work for the latter organization to be particularly meaningful, especially the effort to make the faculty more reflective of the college’s diverse student body.

Kevin Carr in Haiti

Kevin Carr in Haiti

“This place, I can’t speak highly enough about it. I don’t even recognize myself,” he said of SUNY Broome.

One of his most meaningful experiences at SUNY Broome was his participation in the Winter 2018 Health for Haiti global service learning course.

Launched in January 2014, Health for Haiti is a four-credit, interdisciplinary course with a mission: provide humanitarian assistance to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, while preparing college students to contribute to global security and prosperity. Students in the course explore the dynamics between poverty, education and healthcare not through textbooks, but through engaging in service projects that address pressing needs.

Projects encompass a wide range of services, from providing solar power, clean water, bathroom facilities and community gardens in the rural community of Grande Saline, to hands-on education in the arts, computer literacy, science, nutrition and hygiene to both rural and urban Haitian children. Medical and dental clinics, food distribution, the creation and support of a sewing school and soap-making initiative, socializing orphans – Health for Haiti has done it all in the four years since it began.

Kevin Carr, left, and Health for Haiti students

Kevin Carr, left, and Health for Haiti students

“I had never bonded with a group of people faster or more deeply in my life. The impact it made was so incredibly tangible,” Carr said of his experience. “People in the developing world have so much compassion and true joy.”

Carr did a variety of tasks during the 10-day trip, and particularly appreciated his work with the education team, teaching Haitian children. One of the science courses they planned involved a microscope, which Dr. Jennifer Musa was demonstrating to a Haitian teacher who had never used such a device before.

“The teacher said, ‘You just showed me a new world,’” Carr recalled.

One of his most touching experiences came with the same lab. Children were folding origami-type boxes for the new magnifying glasses they received as part of the science lab. It was also preparation of sorts for part two of the science class, when the Health for Haiti team will return this summer with foldable microscopes for their use. The microscopes are fully functional and fascinating, but a bit of work to assemble – hence the early practice with origami.

Kevin Carr teaching a child in Haiti

Kevin Carr teaching a child in Haiti

One little boy had trouble folding his origami project, and Kevin sat beside him, helping him fold the paper. They shared no common language but a desire to learn and a desire to help. Afterward, they shared tears and a hug.

“It was a really special moment. That is what I want my life to be filled with,” Carr said.

Part of the SUNY Broome family

Back at home now, Carr keeps up his busy schedule – always making time to give back. He’s taking a basic EMT class in addition to his course load, thanks to the Union Volunteer Emergency Squad.

To help pay for college, he has received multiple scholarships through the Broome Community College Foundation, including the Paul & Mary Calice and Mildred Barton Memorial Scholarship two years in a row, the Alumni Association for Tutors scholarship and the Second Chance Scholarship.

He’s also a semi-finalist for another incredible scholarship: the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, worth up to $40,000 a year. If he receives that scholarship, he hopes to go to his dream school: Ivy League Cornell University. In the meantime, he has been accepted by Binghamton University, where he plans to major in biological sciences, specializing in neurology and behavior.

Kevin Carr and the education team at work in a Haitian classroom

Kevin Carr and the education team at work in a Haitian classroom

And then it would be off to an intensive and competitive Physician Assistant training program, perhaps at Upstate Medical. Avoiding debt is a priority because Carr wants to work in the Third World, likely volunteering his time.

He’s grateful for his start at SUNY Broome and lists some of the many people who have impacted his life: Sandy Stephens in the Student Activities Office, who “is amazing in every way.” Student Activities Director Jason Boring. The staff at the Learning Assistance Center. Executive Vice President Francis Battisti.

“I feel like I have this giant family. The financial aid ladies, student accounts – any place on campus I go, I meet with knowledgeable staff who want to help,” he said. “It’s so conducive for learning. This is such a great institution. I wouldn’t go anywhere else.”

Serving food to Haitian children

Serving food to Haitian children

Kevin Carr

Kevin Carr