A Childhood of "Goat Herding" Fuels Alum's Success
Evandro C. Carvalho ’04 spent much of his childhood herding goats, building a chicken farm, and serving as a shepherd to cattle on his grandfather’s farm in Cape Verde. Although the manual labor taught him a lot about hard work—rising before dawn, working with his hands, and persisting day after day—in some ways, finding ways to get out of the work taught him more: “whenever I could, I'd use the ‘I have to study’ excuse,” Carvalho reflects. “That, of course, was a bullet-proof reason to get out of doing chores because there was nothing my grandfather believed in more than education.” Thus, if Carvalho did not want to work on the farm, he had to spend his time reading, writing, and doing arithmetic.
All this studying paid off for Carvalho, who graduated from UMass as a Shep Shepard Scholar, with degrees in Legal Studies and Sociology, a concentration in Criminal Justice, and a minor in African American Studies. His experience on the farm also acted as the fuel to get him through Howard Law School: “I had countless moments during law school when I was frustrated, exhausted, sleepless, and often desperate. Just when I would think about quitting and going home, I would look around at all the books and smile; I'd be happy that I was not on the hills running after goats or planting corn, and I would realize how blessed I had been and how easy things are now.”
Easy, however, was always a matter of perspective. “I once believed that if I finished school and got my degrees, everything would be easier. …[but] the hard work never stops!,” he says. Today, Carvalho spends his days in the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office as an Assistant District Attorney. “I prosecute crimes ranging from misdemeanors, such as driving without a license and shoplifting, to felonies, such as assault with a dangerous weapon and larceny from a person. I currently have a caseload of over 150 cases.”
In some ways, the variety in and workload of his current job reflects his time at UMass. “In essence, I was like Dora the Explorer at UMass. Whatever I wanted to try, I tried!” he says. “I was an RA for 3 years; I was president of the Cape Verdean Student Alliance; I was part of the MVP (Men's Violence Prevention); I tutored local students; I spoke at many rallies; I played basketball and jogged daily; I partied pretty much every weekend; I took courses ranging from theater and communication to third world revolutions to law and media; and in the end I graduated with a 3.7 GPA and lifelong friends, colleagues, and mentors!”
These opportunities are what make UMass special, Carvalho says. “UMass is world without boundaries, a world of endless possibilities. … It's no accident that my majors and choice of classes were what they were. I wanted to understand the justice system and how it works. I minored in African American studies because I wanted to learn about the history of African Americans and Africans and, quite frankly, myself. I spoke at rallies, and ran for office, and took public speaking classes because I knew I had to get comfortable speaking in front of people.” Carvalho jokes that he became an RA “for the free double single,” but he is quick to point out that being an RA taught him instrumental lessons in how to deal with conflicts and organize events. Even when his extra-curriculars meant that he had to attend “countless meetings,” Carvalho acknowledged their value: “they prepared me for the hundreds of meetings I have had since and the many more I will certainly continue to have,” he says.
In addition to his experiences at UMass, the work ethic instilled in Carvalho many years ago by his grandfather has played an important role in his success. Carvalho firmly believes that you have to “work hard, and when you get tired, keep working.” Of course, “a healthy dose of self-confidence and faith will work wonders,” he says. As an example, Carvalho recalls his preparation for the bar exam: “though I was generally confident and faithful that I was going to pass the bar exam, like others, I had doubts. … After a long day of studying, I came home very discouraged, stressed, and frustrated. So I decided to call home. By the time I got off the phone, I was again convinced there was no way I was going to fail. My mom, grandfather, and grandmother each took turns praying with me on the phone. That's the kind of unconditional support that I've always had in my life,” he says.
Thus, with family support, faith, and, of course, hard work, Carvalho says current students can successfully follow in his footsteps. Besides, he adds “if a kid from the hills of Cape Verde can go [to UMass] and be successful, then anyone can!”