“I needed to push myself out there … I started joining things and showing up to meet people”


Mr. Finer running the LA Marathon with SRLA in 2008.

Interview audio

In the year 2000, Carl Finer entered Syracuse University, and entered with little to no friends. This made it hard for him, and made his college experience kind of rough. He worked through it, and when he started doing more activities, he gained more friends along the way. 

He practiced band and played at college basketball games around the country. His years at college would lead him to start becoming a teacher at different schools around LA. 

Once he started working at schools as a teacher, he found out about a program named Students Run Los Angeles.  He would then go on to have coffee with the principal of the school he currently works at, Animo Jefferson, and decide to teach there.



William Roque: Okay so, the question I was going to ask you, is which years of school do you think were better, high school or college?
Carl Finer: Like- like for personal?
WR: Yea.
CF: Uhmm, that’s a good question- I don’t know, definitely not elementary or middle school-
WR: Why, what happened?
CF: Uhh, for me I kinda like, like in elementary school, I didn’t really have any friends. It wasn’t until like maybe like seventh grade ish, that I felt isolated and bullied, and it seemed like everyone would hang out with my twin brother, and I was kinda on my own, uh it was more into middle school and definitely into high school when I started getting involved with things and started to do that. Into high school, like sophomore year and then uh, I had a real rough freshman year in college and almost transferred back home, but I’m glad I stuck it out. Sophomore, senior, junior year , is when I was really happy through college, I think it was a rough transition from high school to college.
WR: What happened in college that almost made you transfer?
CF: Leave uh, like so the college I went to wasn’t like, it was sorta far from where I grew up. Maybe it was a five or six hour drive, uh there was only one other person from my high school that went there. So uh, I didn’t really know anybody, like my twin brother went to another school that was more four or five hours the other direction, but there was like 30 other people from our high school class that went there. So like there was a lot of people he knew, and while I didn’t really know anybody. The dorm I was in, they kinda just put you assigned into a dorm, and I didn’t really get along with my roommate that I got assigned to freshman year, uhm I think it was kinda just luck of the draw, the folks I was around and I didn’t have a lot in common. Uhm, yea it’s a hard transition to all of a sudden go off by yourself somewhere, in a totally new environment. You know it took me a while, kinda saying that it took me a while to get involved in things, and make friends with the people that uh, that I got assigned with.
WR: So you find yourself hard to socialize in college?
CF: It was really hard at first, uhm you know I’m glad I didn’t, you know I almost seriously thought about transferring back to a school closer to home where I knew people, but it was also really important to me to like to go out and push myself and you know, learn to be independent and meet new people. I didn’t want to take the easy way I guess-
CF: Or the more comforting way, but yea it was uhm, like most of the folks at least in the dorm I was assigned in my freshman year, a lot of them knew each other and they were from like New York City and the Boston area, uhm they would like go out and party together, which wasn’t really my thing. Honestly, a lot of them weren’t that serious students, I kinda was [laughs] uhhhhm, yea I just it just took me a while [laughs] its, it’s hard you know, a tough transition for everybody. [inaudible]
WR: Yea it’s so new, how did you find yourself making friends, did you just go talk to people or did you start joining activities? 
CR: Well both, uhm like I was a little depressed at first, and eat by myself sometimes or stay in my room and I don’t know, it got to a point where I was like I need to-
WR: Start socializing?
CF: Yea, I needed to push myself out there and start going to the gym and playing basketball on Saturday nights. Stay there till midnight. I started joining things and showing up to meet people, I started getting involved with Habitat For Humanity, like building houses. Also the band that plays like at basketball games, I started running again, so I met a lot of people  that way that I had more in common with rather than the folks who were crazy party people [laughs] that were in my dorm, and also through some of my classes, like a lot of my classes. Like a lot of my classes were like really big classes that were like 300-400 people in a class, uhm but when I got the chance to get smaller classes like 20-30 people, that’s when I got to know people better and uhm and work on projects and its harder to find your people when [inaudible].
WR: So when you said you did band, do you still play instruments to this day?
CF: Uhh, it’s been a while since I picked it up, I played trumpet. I played all through high school into college, which was uhm, I mean a really- college was a really good opportunity because uhm- [interrupted by AJMS loudspeaker] uhhh so yea I played trumpet, I got involved with uh the band in college that plays at the basketball games, and where I went, Syracuse had a really good basketball team.They actually won the national championship in my sophomore year, like 30,000 people for college basketball games. It’s like as big as USC is for football-
WR: Pretty big.
CF: Yea, like crazy, so one, I didn’t wanna pay for tickets [laughs] and two, it was like really fun to be like right behind the hoop and involved in things, so I joined the basketball band. Uh, it did not actually have any adults, it was a student club. It was organized as a student club, like student run, so there was like 130 of us, like 130 people in it,,there- there was actually a, I met one person and he didn’t even know how to play an instrument [laughs]. They just found a trumpet at a thrift store and said “This looks like fun.” [laughs]
WR: Did they end up dropping out of band?
CF: Uhh so they way it works is it there was like a ton of people in it, but if you wanted to play at the really good games or if you wanted to travel with the team to like tournaments, like March Madness-
WR: Yea.
CF: That they were limited to like, 30 people a travel band, and I think 60- like they couldn’t have everybody at all the games, so if you wanted to play at the good games, you actually had to go to the practices and do an audition, uh, if you did not wanna do those things, then you could play but you wouldn’t have as many opportunities, uhm, to do that. So that was cool, and we played at the women’s games and other events too, so that was fun.I got to travel with the team, the first time I went to New York City was with the team, and then I got to go to Arizona, for the Sweet 16 one year, which was my first time traveling anywhere out west, where they flew us, the band, and the cheerleaders and all the athletic department, staff and trainers and put us up into a nice hotel, we got to play the game on TV, uhm, it was pretty fun. [laughs] 
WR: You always said that you would be playing behind the hoop, outside of the game, but you said you never joined basketball. Did something prevent you from playing basketball?
CF: Oh oh oh, so yea the band had like the seats right behind the hoop, no like the basketball team where I went, you had to like- I mean Carmelo Anthony, you know Carmelo? He’s on the Lakers, the star of that team. In Syracuse basketball team, everybody goes pro.