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Caldwell Alums bring Cougars Spirit to Baltimore’s Finest

Carlos Sanchez  and Robert Arena

For Carlos Sanchez ’12 and Robert Arena ’12, the start of the workday might feel a little like old times. The former classmates—and teammates on the soccer field—now work together to fight crime on the streets of Baltimore.

If you had asked them in high school, it is doubtful either would have mentioned attending Caldwell. In fact, Carlos wasn’t sure he would even go to college. “I had always struggled in class. At the time, I was looking at other options, such as trade school.”

That’s when fate—and Caldwell’s recruiters—stepped in. “All I knew is that I wanted to play soccer in college, and that I wanted to be on my own,” Robert recalls. He met Coach Nash at one of the University’s recruitment events.

Carlos happened to wander by the Caldwell table at a Nutley High School college fair. “I struck up a conversation with the admissions counselor, applied, and was accepted on the spot! I don’t know who was more surprised: me, or my parents when I called them with the news.”

Robert joined the soccer program right away. The two met when Carlos joined a year later. Many of their best Caldwell memories revolve around their team. Spring break trips to Europe and Canada with their teammates were particularly memorable. And they still laugh about the Halloween when a few of the soccer players showed up for practice in a friend’s convertible, in full costume.

Robert enrolled at Caldwell thinking that he would pursue a career in teaching. He learned pretty quickly, however, that education was not for him. A teammate suggested he try an elective in criminal justice. He signed up for a class about crime families, and he was hooked.

Carlos had a different path in mind. A communications major with a criminal justice minor, his dream was to become a professional photographer—a combat photographer, preferably. After graduation, he worked for a major transit advertising company, taking photos for public transportation giants like New Jersey Transit and DeCamp Bus Lines.

Although Robert had envisioned joining a New Jersey-based police department after graduation, recession-era budget cuts translated into fewer opportunities for new graduates. He decided to branch out, learned that the city of Baltimore was investing in law enforcement, and joined the force there. When Carlos decided to pivot his career toward criminal justice, Robert encouraged him to apply in Baltimore as well. Within months, not only were they both on the Baltimore police force, they were assigned to the same squad.

Robert mentions how quickly they have advanced in their new careers, in such a short time, “I’ve been able to climb to a level that I never expected.”

But when asked about their achievements, both point to their Caldwell degree. “I didn’t think school was for me,” Robert says, about his early days in college. “I am proud that I was able to handle my studies, while also being a student athlete.”

For Carlos, earning a college degree holds a special place as well. “In high school, I was classified with learning disabilities.” College-level work was even more challenging. “I had to study harder than everyone else. But the Caldwell community supported me. Because of the people there—the teachers, the resources, and the culture—I learned to cope, to be patient, and to keep going.”

Robert echoes this sentiment. “Caldwell helped shaped me into a more confident and responsible man. When I was a tour ambassador for the college, people used to ask me all the time, if I had a chance to do it all over again would I make the same choice? And I would respond with a definite ‘yes’!”

Carlos and Robert are not part of a typical patrol team in Baltimore. They are a crime enforcement unit working to improve a community that is struggling. It is dangerous, but very important, work. In true Cougar fashion, they will persist until the job is done.