As he sits in his office, a cluster of odds and ends surround him including two lacrosse sticks, paperwork, a Dell computer, four jugs of Vermont maple syrup, and a red bicycle. If you look up, you’ll see plants hanging from the ceiling, which are carefully watered from the condensation that drips off the sealing pipes.
Clever right? Yeah, some might say that.
But for Kevin Kareckas, area coordinator of Residence Life, innovation comes easy.
When he isn’t walking around campus, greeting each person as they walk by with a smile on his face or doing other duties an area coordinator is required to do, he sits comfortably in his office on a large blue yoga ball. On his feet he wears brown sport sandals with light brown khaki pants and a button up t-shirt.
If it were a Friday however, he would be sporting some sort of Hawaiian shirt for what he calls “Hawaiian shirt Friday.”
Mike Robilotto, director of residence life, said Kareckas has stayed true to this tradition since he began work at Castleton nearly three years ago.
“Anyone that knows Kevin, knows that he is not like your everyday regular area coordinator. He brings a different mindset; he really thinks outside the box,” Robilotto said.
In the past, Kevin would celebrate what he called “sweet treat Tuesday,” where he would bring a different treat to the Residence Life office every week.
“He is such a giving person, Robilotto said. “When he goes it will be a big loss to the department because he represents residence life and he is really for the students, with the staff and loving Castleton.”
He said Kareckas was the guy who went door to door to meet everyone in the office, which is very unusual today. He wanted that personal connection.
From then on, Robilotto has had a great relationship with him. He said Kareckas knows his family well and even watches his dogs for him on occasion.
What many may not know is that he thinks of himself as a bit of a closet introvert.
“The older I get, the more I realize how much energy I get from being by myself. I am very outgoing and I enjoy being social, but I also really value alone time,” Kareckas said.
That’s why his canoe is a one-seater and it’s the reason he has a tail bag on his motorcycle.
“I like cruising with other people, but its kind of something I can do to get away on my own,” Kareckas said.
He also loves to make music.
It’s not everyday you hear a rap song about bedtime, pancakes or Crocs.His famous Croc song even got him a free pair of the popular plastic shoes from the Croc Company. It went a little something like this: “I got some Crocs on my feet, some Crocs on my feet.” If you listen closely, it sounds like the verse “J’s on my feet” from the Miley Cyrus’ song “23.”
“I do all the rapping myself, and at my core I am kind of a dork, so I lean on my humor in my raps to drive the message home,” he said.
His love of music began at the age of eight, when he would DJ at school dances. By age 12, Kareckas was DJ’ing at weddings and has kept it as a side job since then. He also started a reggae band in high school with his buddy, Josh, called Roots Rhythm and Dub. The band has since moved on without him.
Seeing him now, you would never know the hardships he has endured. His fun and thoughtful personality that covers up the scars. Being able to walk is one of his biggest accomplishments, he said. When he came out of the womb, he had what they call Bilateral Skew Feet. This means not one, but both feet were severely turned in.
“It was almost like a Forrest Gump story. I actually remember learning how to walk at eight years old,” Kareckas said.
What’s even more bizarre is his case is the only actual known case in the world. His x-rays can be found online. Dr. J. Phillips was the man who “gave him feet,” he said. He was the man who made up an operation for this.
Because of this hardship, Kareckas is more thankful and energetic than ever.
“Kevin is a force of nature. I think he’s spontaneous and he has limitless energy,” said his older brother, Andy who is a professional performer and musician.
Andy said when they were kids they sort of competed for attention and because of this he thought Kevin was annoying. But now, he looks at him as one of his biggest inspirations and someone he admires.
“He is so resilient and all you see is light come out of this guy,” Andy said.
After high school, Kareckas went to Wheelock College in Boston, where he majored in education. He said the college was a third the size of Castleton – and 93 percent women, because it was a “teacher” school. He was one of 67 guys at the school.
He didn’t choose the college like a normal high school student would after a tour. He went back stage in the Wheelock Family Theater and met a guy named Bryan, the technical director. He liked the vibe the guy had. He also met a guy named Floyd, a custodian who had been there 20 years.
“I have always been a systems thinker and I like talking to people that know the ins and the outs of everything,” Kareckas said.
If you’re wondering, Floyd got him there.
“So he’s the guy I want to talk to, not an admissions rep. He’s the real expert, so Floyd sold me the school,” Kareckas said.
During his time at Wheelock he was involved in everything. He tried tennis, which he knew nothing about. He became the class treasurer and with the help from others, got a lacrosse program started.
His most life-changing experience, however, happened in a second-grade classroom in Boston, when he realized the only way to succeed in life is to be true to yourself. He was placed in a class of seven-year-olds who had already given up and hated school. It was very influential, but also an eye opener for himself.
“It was the first time as an educator that I failed. I was just failing these students for 45 minutes and it was on tape and I remember looking down at this little girl afterward and she said, ‘Mr. K is your heart broken?’ and I said ‘not really’ and she said ‘maybe a little bit?’” Kareckas said.
That was the moment he learned you can’t fake it – you have to be real.
“I tried to fake it that day. I walked in underprepared,” he said.
His next chance to shine was his senior year when he was placed full-time in a fourth and fifth grade classroom. He was really able to put his past experiences to the test. “I learned my most influential moments as a student in college have been from the hands and the emotions and the brains of elementary students in their learning setting,” Kareckas said.
Now he’s making his mark at Castleton, and he said he loves his job. In general he loves work.
“I am from a family of hustlers. And we love to work and we have a lot of fun at work. That is the Kareckas way,” he said.
But wouldn’t it be fun to ponder what he would be doing if he weren’t here?
“If I were to do something different, I would be interested to be a light bulb changer. Think about all those radio towers with the blinking red light on top. That burns out every once in a while. And when you go to the top of that, you better know what bulb that is because you just climbed up there,” he said.
He did say, however, that he is somewhat afraid of heights, but he also likes adrenalin.
Anna Daniels, a community advisor in Hoff Hall, knows exactly how to describe Kareckas.
“Kevin is very outgoing. He is not afraid to try new things and is very open-minded. When he does something, he does it all the way,” she said.
All in all, you can tell Kareckas is satisfied where he is in life.
“This is exactly where I want to be. It’s really nice to love what you do, love where you work, when you literally live at work and wake up here everyday,” he said.