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For Criminal Justice Month, Daymar College is honoring educators and graduates of our Criminal Justice Program who are making a difference every day in their communities. Since the US Congress established it in 2009, the purpose of National Criminal Justice Month has been “to promote societal awareness regarding the causes and consequences of crime, as well as strategies for preventing and responding to crime”. Those who pursue careers in criminal justice contribute to crime prevention every day, and we would like to use the month of March to thank them for their commitment.
Latisha Johnson walked into her Strategies for Success class in August 2012 with every intention of making it her last. She had just enrolled in the Criminal Justice Associate’s Degree Program at Daymar College’s Clarksville Campus, and it was the first time she’d been away from her four children. She was feeling so guilty that she decided to quit.
It was serendipity that course instructor Laura Kingery picked that day to tell her story. When the criminal justice student heard her teacher speak about pursuing her career and education goals while raising her four children, Latisha heard her own story with the ending she always wanted. Though she’d been fascinated by the criminal justice field since she was nine years old, Latisha dropped out of high school after becoming pregnant and earned her G.E.D. She was inspired by her teacher’s success borne out of similar circumstances.
“That day I decided that I would stay and see this thing out and see what possibly could happen, and I’m so glad I did,” Latisha said.
Now a full-time probation aide with Montgomery County, TN, Latisha is the first person defendants see after being placed on probation. Her duties range from reviewing booking logs to attending court proceedings. She completes paperwork, administers drug screenings, and conducts orientation. It’s a difficult job to ease people into a difficult situation. The most rewarding part of her job, she says, is when someone simply says “thank you”.
Her career is focused on communication, something she wasn’t always so comfortable doing before she attended Daymar College for her criminal justice degree.
“I learned how to be more approachable,” she said. “Being home with children, you’re limited in your conversation and limited in your interaction with others.”
She says that Daymar College “opened up a whole new world.” She credits Daymar staff members Crystal Wagner Eckberg and Linda Ebel for helping guide her through her return to school and, later, the workforce. She also enjoyed meeting students from different cultures, backgrounds, and ages.
After resolving to stay in school this time — she’d enrolled in a degree program when she was 25 — Latisha became active in the student volunteer work. She got involved in the Criminal Justice Club and eventually became Vice President and even acting president for an interim period. She took advantage of opportunities to get in the community and to learn more about the criminal justice field. She worked at career fairs and as security for campus events. One of her favorite volunteer experiences was working with the “bright, disciplined” students of a criminal justice academy at a local high school.
“It grew me up, even though I started in my thirties, it grew me up,” she said.
In her final semester, Latisha started a three-month internship at the country probation office where she learned procedures and documentation by practice and observation. After graduation, she immediately enrolled back at Daymar College as a full-time student in the Criminal Justice Program for her Bachelor’s Degree.. When the parole aide position became available, Latisha applied and she started five months after graduation.
Latisha is currently a full-time Daymar College Criminal Justice Program student involved again in the criminal justice club, a full-time probation aide, and a full-time mom. Her youngest child is nine, the same age Latisha was when she fell in love with the field would years later become her career. Her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice won’t be the end of her education. Her ultimate goal is to work with juveniles, so she plans to pursue a second bachelor’s degree in social work. She’s not at home with her kids all day anymore, but she takes lessons learned on the job home with her.
“You hear a story and it makes me think as a mother, what little difference can I make today when I go home and see my kids?” Latisha said. “It helps me be mindful with how I deal with my children so that they don’t end up someday on someone’s booking log.”