Gabriel Carrera '01 had such a positive experience at the University of Hartford that he wants to give back. But like most things in his life, he isn’t going the usual route.
Carrera will ride 8,000 miles on his motorcycle on a difficult endurance challenge ride from Florida to Alaska starting July 20 to raise money for the University. He is asking alumni, friends and others to pledge a donation for each mile he rides to raise money for student financial aid.
Carrera, a Florida-based lawyer, has come a long way since he dropped out of high school and drowned himself in cocaine and heroin as a member of Hartford’s Latin Riders motorcycle gang. Fortunately, a trip to jail on a breaking and entering charge shepherded him into a Christian rehabilitation program. He cleaned up his act and moved forward with his education, enrolling in a community college.
Some years later, Carrera decided he wanted to be a catalyst for change in the community and that law school would give him the means. He enrolled in the University of Hartford fulltime as an adult student while working 25 hours a week and raising a family.
“They believed in me. They backed me. I would not have gotten here if it wasn’t for God and the University of Hartford.”
Carrera, who was a political science major, has fond memories of his days at the University. He said he immensely enjoyed his Constitutional Law class. “I was fascinated by the law, getting into the why and analysis from Supreme Court justices,” he said.
He also joined a University law association club, wrote for the school newspaper, and used his firsthand experience to help Associate Professor Albert DiChiara, director of the University's criminal justice program, with research for a book on gangs.
“I remember Gabe quite well,” DiChiara said. “He was a hard-working student and was very helpful to me in my research.”
Carrera graduated in 2001 and then returned to the University to complete a master’s in communication a year later. Then he went on to realize his dream of law school, enrolling in Nova Southeastern University law school in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
“The University of Hartford was my spring board into law school,” he said. “The University of Hartford gave me the tools — and I mean tools, because you need tools when you go to law school.”
Today, Carrera owns his own law practice and is known as “The Attorney That Rides” in the Fort Lauderdale area, catering to motorcyclists and immigrants, among others.
When he opened the University of Hartford’s Challenge Day emails this April, he felt a call to do something more for his alma mater.
“I want to do something significant for the University of Hartford. I’ve got to give back,” he said.
Recalling friends who had received corporate sponsorships for toy runs, an idea struck him. He had already planned to participate in the 2014 Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge—a motorcycle ride from Key West, Fla., to Homer, Alaska, in July. Why not use this as an opportunity for fellow alumni to donate to the University of Hartford per mile he completes?
The 7,500-mile challenge, limited to Harley-Davidson riders, tests “riders’ abilities to navigate, endure and persevere along some of the most technical roads in North America,” according to the Hoka Hey website.
Carrera will have to make his way along a route that includes little interstate highway without the help of technology or any sort of communication or guidance. In addition, participants may not use hotels, so he will be sleeping by his bike. If that challenge weren’t enough, Carrera vows to continue his trek on to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to complete an Iron Butt Association challenge as well.