Edward Casares – Climbing the Ladder to Success
Edward Casares graduated from Goodwin College’s Homeland Security program in June of 2009. Casares, the first in his family to obtain a college degree, credits Goodwin in large part to his personal growth and professional development.
In the 1980s, a lawsuit was filed in Hartford by La Casa De Puerto Rico regarding a 12-year-old child who passed away from being buried under debris, unable to be rescued due to a language barrier. The settlement included the hiring of 50 firefighters, 25 of whom needed to speak Spanish, to prevent a similar incident from happening. At 21, Casares was hired by the Hartford Fire Department under this settlement.
He worked his way up in the department, but even with training and many certificates in the field, he felt like something was missing. “There was some emptiness there. I didn’t have a degree. A degree leads to credibility. It means you have met the standards and qualifications,” Casares stated.
Casares had reservations about going back to school after being out of for 30 years, but decided to check out the Homeland Security program at Goodwin. “I had a lot of doubt, but Guy LaBella, Goodwin College Assistant Director of College Relations, motivated me. He challenged me. We talked about the benefits of having a degree. The 30 minutes he took out of his time allowed me to follow my dream.”
His classmates and teachers kept him focused and on track. “Other students motivated me to do better. The instructors took the time to meet with me and made me feel like this is where I belonged. They had compassion – along with certain toughness – that I needed and the students wouldn’t let me fail,” Casares said.
Casares started out as Deputy Fire Marshal and worked his way up gradually to Fire Marshal, a position he held for half of his career in the Fire Prevention Division. His Homeland Security degree gave him the credentials and skill base to apply for Chief. “I had a good foundation and was promoted to Chief of Department and Director of Emergency Management,” Casares recalled.
As the first Puerto Rican ever to be promoted to Chief in the 150-year history of the Fire Department, Casares was responsible for almost 400 employees and a $32 billion dollar budget and was the city’s Emergency Manager.
“My favorite part of the job was getting things done and seeing the end result. The department was great when I got there, and I wanted to continue on that path and constantly improve,” Casares said.
After graduating with his associate’s degree from Goodwin, Casares was motivated to continue on this path of growth and education. On October 25, 2013, Casares graduated with his bachelor’s degree in Fire Science from Columbia Southern University.
“My coworkers talked about the challenges of going back to school as an older student, and I showed them it was possible.”
Casares was later asked to represent Goodwin alumni on the College’s Board of Trustees. “I sit in the boardroom with talented individuals, and we talk about how they are helping the school grow. As an alumni, I bring an additional point of view,” Casares said.
Recently retired, Casares is hoping to give back to Goodwin in the years to come. “I would like to come back and teach public safety,” Casares said.
Casares proves that going back to school later in life can lead to unlimited success and fulfillment. “Goodwin lays out a plan and shows it’s possible. For every excuse I had to not do it, they had a plan of how I could. Coming to Goodwin was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself,” Casares said.
By: Hannah Stacy