Former Enterprise Wildcat and current Auburn Tiger Jacob Quattlebaum got a chance to recognize one of his mentors and also earn money for his alma mater in the process recently.
Quattlebaum took part in the SEC’s Extra Yard for Teachers Program, which saw the conference select an athlete from each of the 14 member schools to get a testimonial about a teacher that made an impact on his or her life. That video aired on SEC Nation this past weekend as Auburn hosted Mississippi State.
Auburn and the SEC selected Quattlebaum to represent the Tigers.
“I went on a mission trip this summer to Birmingham with a group called the Auburn Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC),” Quattlebaum said.
“It was just a weekend trip where we worked with Habitat for Humanity and the Ronald McDonald House and during that trip I got to know our SAAC secretary Meredith Sylvia and our athletic department representative Janice Robinson.
“I got a call from them a few weeks later asking if I wouldn’t mind representing Auburn due to my mom being an educator and me being from the state. They thought I would be a good representative of the university.”
Quattlebaum’s mother, Jeanna, was a teacher in the Enterprise school system for nearly 30 years. Quattlebaum – who is an engineering major at Auburn – chose his engineering teacher Nick Ciuzio to recognize.
“He’s the guy that introduced me to engineering and kind of got me to purse engineering here at Auburn,” Quattlebaum said. “I credit him for what I’ll probably do as my career.
“I thought he was a guy that always brought enthusiasm to the classroom and always did everything he could to make an impact on the lives of his students and introduce us to a major field that is growing in our nation right now.”
Ciuzio is an Enterprise native that graduated from EHS and then went on to go to school at Enterprise State Community College – then known as Enterprise State Junior College – before graduating with an engineering degree from Alabama. Ciuzio also received a master’s degree from Troy in business administration.
“I started my career in engineering climbing the ranks as a plant engineer and then an engineer manager,” Cuizio continued. “I moved on to be a production manager, plant manager and eventually moved through the corporate ranks.
“When the plants began to disappear from the local area my role changed from a local role to a global one.
“Ultimately, I became the vice president of manufacturing for a global division responsible for factories in Portugal, South America, Mexico, China, Vietnam and Lithuania.”
Cuizio retired from engineering and decided it was time to move into the teaching field.
“I did my time in industry and I was a successful executive in an international manufacturing company and retired at a relatively young age,” Cuizio said. “Out of nowhere, really, this program (at EHS) opened up at that same time.
“It was always my plan to go back and teach but it was probably going to be at the college level. This program just happened to be formed a few months after I retired from industry. It was like it was just meant to be.”
Cuizio’s life experiences are part of what made him such a great teacher and mentor, according to Quattlebaum.
“I consider him a mentor to me because of his career and what he did in his life is something similar to what I want to do with my life,” Quattlebaum emphasized. “I looked up to him and he’s given a lot of advice over the year in different ways I can approach certain situations and what to look for. He’s a friend but also a mentor.”
Ciuzio said he was shocked to learn that Quattlebaum had selected him in the Extra Yard for Teacher’s program.
“It was overwhelming to me,” Ciuzio said. “I was over the moon about it. I didn’t get any notice from Jacob about it. I just got a call from the SEC one day. It was a really cool feeling.”
Ciuzio said that making an impact on a student’s life is why he is a teacher in the first place.
“It’s why I do what I do,” he said. “I don’t teach because of the job. I’m teaching now because this was somewhat of a selfish goal of mine. Something I can do in my retirement years. I like to call it my victory lap.”
A video tribute to his mentor is not the only benefit that Extra Yard for Teachers will give Ciuzio or EHS, however. A $10,000 grant accompanies it.
“It’s such an amazing opportunity for the program because they’re limited on their funding and there are so many different fields of engineering and supplies they need,” Quattlebaum said. “I originally didn’t know there was a grant to go with it, but when they told me about it I thought it would be amazing for Mr. Ciuzio to be able to spend it on the things he knows that they need to teach in the classroom. It will only help grow that program even more over the next few years.”
Ciuzio said that the grant comes at a perfect time, too.
“It means the world to us,” he said. “We have so many needs. Our program is on its sixth year and it started with a federal grant, but most of the equipment bought with that is approaching the end of its economic life. We have a lot of needs in our department and this is really going to help.”
One of the areas Ciuzio said would greatly benefit from the money is the engineering department’s VEX robotics program.
“We’ll be able to better compete in our VEX robotics program,” Ciuzio said. “That equipment is aging and now being totally revised. The systems used in competition are completely different than were used last year.
“So, this is a perfect time to have this funding because it costs several thousand dollars just to equip a single VEX team.”
To watch Quattlebaum's SEC Nation feature: https://www.espn.com/video/clip?id=27720234