Choosing the right path

Resource Officer Milton Gil’s past experiences have led him down many career paths


photo by Nadia Knoblauch

Resource Officer Milton Gil watches over students during break. Gil can be often seen around the courtyard talking to students, staff and other security members.

Glass and jewelry littered the floor. Bedsheets and pillowcases were ripped from the mattresses and broken windows let in the night air. A frightened 14-year-old Milton Gil and his family came home from dinner to find their front door wide open. In his neighborhood of Jamaica, in Queens, New York, criminal activity was not uncommon, but looking at the clothes and magazines scattered across his bedroom made him feel defenseless, something he had never felt before.

School Resource Officer Milton Gil has worked for the Seminole County Sheriff’s office for six years and this is his first year at Hagerty. Growing up in Queens, Gil first experienced crime following the robbery of his childhood apartment. After his family’s move to New Jersey, he joined a karate dojo run by his high school English teacher. Continuing karate and wrestling throughout high school, Gil later learned Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Krav Maga, an Israeli military martial art.

“I felt like I needed to defend myself,” Gil said. “You never know what your life is going to bring.”

The robbery catalyzed Gil’s passion for law enforcement, leading him to study criminal law at Rutgers University. Although Gil had begun to head down the path towards law enforcement, his fluency in Spanish and Portuguese would land him a job at Citibank of America, bringing him back to New York City. As his parents were immigrants from Colombia, Gil was taught both languages from a young age, which was useful on the bank’s trading floor. 

Gil worked on Wall Street for seven years, leaving his career in law enforcement behind. However, his career with the bank would be cut short after it merged due to economic fallout from 9/11, leaving him in New York with a severance package and a long-forgotten dream.

Growing up, Gil was always drawn to different styles of photography. Although he could not afford a camera, he studied photographs in magazines, hoping one day he would be able to capture images of his own.

“My first camera was like $50, and then from there as I made more money, I bought more,” Gil said. “I taught myself how to use cameras and learned proper lighting, and I just fell in love with it.”

Instead of looking at his layoff as a loss, he saw it as an opportunity to delve into this abandoned passion. Funded by his severance package, Milton Gil Photography took flight, becoming a highly acclaimed studio in the New York and New Jersey area.

“One of the things I love and enjoy about photography is the creativity,” Gil said. “It’s limitless. You’re only limited to what you can come up with.”

As Gil’s business and family grew, he decided to move to Florida to get a change of scenery. With a new home and career, Gil experimented with a new hobby: Olympic shooting. At the shooting range, Gil befriended many officers and ex-military members who encouraged him to take another shot at law enforcement.

“They were like, ‘Well, why don’t you go into law enforcement? You wanted to do it when you were younger, you speak Spanish and Portuguese, you do martial arts, you work out, you’re in good shape and you like shooting. You’re perfect for it,’” Gil said.

As Gil questioned whether or not he should make another attempt at criminal law, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting spread across national news, forcing him to relive his own childhood experiences and regain his passion for law enforcement. Gil then realized who needed the most protection: children in schools. 

“The world has gotten crazier out there,” Gil said. “Innocent kids don’t deserve that, they deserve to live happy, free and safe.”

Gil put himself into the police academy, graduating at the top of his class, and was hired by the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office later that year.

“I wanted to get into school safety mainly because it’s my way of giving back to the community,” Gil said. “How better to help than to help people who can’t really defend themselves?”

While Gil now has the job title of a school resource officer, his previous experiences have combined to help him in his new role.

“You can reinvent yourself as you continue to grow as a person. Opportunities are always there, you just have to have the right mindset,” Gil said. “I tell people all the time, life’s all about obstacles, it’s just about how you approach them and get around them.”