This month we were delighted to spend some time with Sylvia Davis, a recent Carrington College California – online graduate; Sylvia completed her Criminal Justice degree in December last year.
A native of New Orleans, LA, Sylvia was working as a sheriff’s deputy assigned to a corrections facility in Louisiana, while studying the Criminal Justice associate degree program online. Recently relocated to Las Vegas, NV, Sylvia now works at a Nevada state prison as a Corrections Assistant. “I was already working in law enforcement, but I wanted to get an education behind me to enable me to move forward.”
Now that she is applying the knowledge she learned at Carrington on a daily basis, she can really see the value of her Criminal Justice education;
“It was wonderful to complete the Carrington program, and to use everything that I had learned, even in my interviews. It was such a good feeling to be able to pull something tangible out of just about every class and apply it to life. I’ve never been able to do that in any of the other colleges I’ve attended.”
As happens with most of us, Sylvia’s career path didn’t quite go the way she had thought.
“I was a teenage mother, so my life took a detour from the route I had planned, which had been to graduate high school and then go to college. As a teenage mom, I had to go to work and raise a child, so my life circumstances postponed college for me, but I always wanted to go back to school.”
Sylvia has been working with offenders and other disenfranchised individuals in law enforcement/social services since 1994. In the mid 90s Sylvia started to pursue a Sociology degree, but soon realized it wasn’t what she wanted, instead switching to a non-profit Business Administration degree program at the University of Chicago at Illinois; she graduated in 1997.
“That degree was excellent, but it was for the administrative side of social service. It was lucrative, but I always felt something was missing. I was shuffling papers, crunching numbers, writing grants, which is necessary work, but it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. I missed working with the individuals, so I had to do an about face and decide what I really wanted to do with my life.”
Sylvia admits that she did things a little backwards; she was fortunate to land some good jobs working with good people, gaining experience in social services/law enforcement before she got the criminal justice qualification she was looking for.
“When most people think of law enforcement, they think of patrol, investigation, CSI, but there is another side to it. I call it the ‘social services’ side of law enforcement, those who help people deal with re-entry into the community.
I’ve worked on both sides of law enforcement, but I gravitate more to the social services side because I’m good at finding resources and motivating people. That’s why I thought Corrections would be a good direction to go; if I want a good understanding of the population I’m going to be helping, I need some hands-on experience of what they’ve gone through.”
Sylvia had tried another online college, but just hadn’t felt connected with the program, or the instructors. Then one day she met someone in passing who mentioned what a great experience Carrington College California Online had been for them; so she did some research, saw that we offered a Criminal Justice degree program, and spoke with some ‘awesome advisors’ (Sylvia’s words!).
Sylvia found that connection she was looking for almost immediately;
“That’s one of the reasons I was able to make it through; when you’re in school, whether online or on campus, you’re still dealing with life’s other challenges. Having that support system, extended family as I call it, was instrumental in me hanging on in there, being able to move forward knowing that I had that support.”
The level of accessibility and support from instructors and advisors was the biggest surprise for Sylvia during her time studying at Carrington;
“If you sent an email or made a phone call asking for help, even if they weren’t available at that moment, they always returned the call or sent me a response. It was almost like being in a class, and even though I couldn’t see my instructor, I still felt connected to them.”
Another positive for Sylvia was that her instructors were never judgmental, and they always made sure their students felt that they could voice their honest feelings on a subject;
“Even though we may have disagreed on certain points, we would always remain respectful of each other’s point of view. We would have some really good discussions in class. We discussed real life scenarios, sometimes life and death scenarios; and here I am now using what I learned in those scenarios at work every day.”
We asked Sylvia what advice she would give to a student considering an online degree;
“I would tell them to be honest with themselves, and to ask “Do I have the discipline to do the work, to participate fully, and to make the benchmarks?” If they’re not sure that the answer is yes, they should consider a campus based program.”
But for those students who can self-motivate, then Sylvia believes that Carrington College California Online would be a wonderful choice.
“If they get stuck, they can make a phone call and get some help. So although you’re working alone, you’re never really alone because of that support system. I would get calls, and emails, just checking in to make sure I was doing ok. They weren’t babysitting me, just being very professional.”
In her new role as a Corrections Assistant, Sylvia works with minimum and maximum security offenders every day; it’s this ‘social services’ side of law enforcement that she really enjoys;
“Some of the men I work with will never get to go home, but we still have services for them. That’s where I come in, I carry out assessments to identify what services would be a good fit, such as a remedial GED, or an online degree; our hope is that those who will be released will return to society with a different mindset. Of course there is the security side to it too.”
Her longer term goal is to head up a non-profit working with disenfranchised individuals, such as ex-offenders, the homeless, or juvenile delinquents;
“This job gives me better insight into what ex-offenders have had to deal with; being in jail is a whole other world, it’s horrible, there’s no other word for it. If I’m going to provide support services to people, I felt I needed to have insight into what they have dealt with. How can I help them move on, if I have no understanding of where they’ve come from?
In my heart I always wanted to secure a degree that would allow me to say not only do I have the hands-on experience, but I also had the courage to go back to school as an older adult and complete a degree in criminal justice.”
Thanks for volunteering to be in our Graduate Spotlight Sylvia; we love the passion you have for what you do, and good luck with your continuing career.