5 Questions with the “Questions” Guy


Tara O’Neil

Since last summer, Larry Cavaletto has run his Charlie Brown-inspired booth and looks to make a difference within the University of California, Santa Barbara community by having helpful and thought-provoking conversations with students. He is approachable, inspiring, and willing to discuss just about anything. Next time you find yourself walking near the library, stop on by and ask him a question for a nickel.

Q: What made you want to start the booth?

A: Well the easiest way to explain it is… you see that sign over there… what’s that say? [“You can make a difference.”] I think everyone wants to make a difference. I mean, I see culture changing and it’s not going in a good direction from my perspective. My only hope is you guys! I’m here to encourage you to work hard, to get good grades, to graduate, and to make good decisions!

Q: How many people come by per day?

It varies. You know, I may only talk to one or two people, just whoever has got the curiosity… I just want to be a presence here and available because [students] are going to have questions. There are a lot of hurting students on campus. They need to develop relationships with people they can trust, which is why I hope to be here as often as I can.

Q: What is the best part of working in this booth?

A: I believe I’m helping these kids. I may never see it, but I ask people to come back and tell me the rest of their stories. I believe I’m making a difference… your parents sent you here to get an “edumacation,” but I’m here to get you to think! I want to have a conversation.

Q: What was your profession when you were younger?

A: I’m a farmer! I have a farming background and my family has a farming background. I didn’t go to college. Actually, I went to the California Maritime Academy in Vallejo, it’s a military school… I didn’t do well in high school, but to get into this school you just needed to pass a test and pass a physical and I did that. So I got there and, of course, this place is like West Point. It had all this discipline and the first couple of days I wanted to quit. But an upperclassman came alongside me and he says, ‘You can quit if you want, but you paid your money, you’re not getting that back. I would recommend that you stay here through the semester and if you still want to quit at the end of the semester, quit then.’ So I took that advice and it’s probably the best advice I could give, because there is stuff in life that is just so hard that you want to quit, but you just get through it.

Q: What wisdom do you want to pass on to the students of UCSB?

Life is tough. It’s hard, but you’ve got to keep at it! There’s going to be stuff in life that you don’t want to do and you could easily just back up and give up and not do it… you’re making decisions every day and some of them are tough and you don’t know what to do. So you make a list: what are the pros? what are the cons? And you make the best decision you can based on the information you have… Sometimes you don’t have all the information and sometimes you might not make the right decision. So, if I can help students to do the right thing—mentor them—and the student chooses to do that, it’s going to make a difference in their life and the lives of those around them.”