By Megan Driscoll
Study.com: Please tell our readers about the education program in which you're currently enrolled.
Megan Guardino: I am currently enrolled in Washington State University Vancouver's bachelor's degree program in criminal justice. However, on the graduation certificate, WSUV states the student has earned a bachelor's degree in 'Social Sciences' ... 'in Criminal Justice.' (Just an interesting side note for students who are looking to attend Washington State University.) I am also focusing my minor on business management and will dabble in psychology along the way to complete my studies.
Study.com: What was your previous educational and/or professional background, and how did you become interested in criminal justice?
MG: During my senior year of high school I was enrolled in the Criminal Justice Program through the Clark County Skills Center. I thoroughly enjoyed the program, and because I was able to get a preview of the topics I would learn at the university level, I decided that I was passionate enough about this subject to pursue a degree in it. I also have a friend of the family who works as a probation officer with juvenile youth through Clark County. She has been my inspiration to work with the youth of our future. I have learned many skills from her, and I know that if I intend to make a difference, I will need to receive the proper education to do so.
Study.com: How has the 2010-2011 school year gone for you so far? What are your favorite things, least favorite things, biggest surprises, etc.?
MG: The 2010-11 school year has been full of struggles and surprises, but it has been great. I love how involved I have become with the college and how many new people I have met. It truly is a huge change to come to a university, and then look back at your high school and see the magnitude of difference there is in maturity and the nature of the studies.
My biggest letdown about this year would have to be the parking. It is a nightmare. There are limited spaces, and so many students that you have to be extremely careful driving around the campus or else you might get hit.
My biggest surprise was learning that I had the potential for so much more than I had thought. My teachers believe in me, my peers believe in me and the support I get from my family truly helped me through the rough times that life throws at you. It has been an amazing experience so far, and I am definitely looking forward to next year!
Study.com: In what ways has the scholarship money you received from Study.com helped you in your studies?
MG: The scholarship was the first I had ever received. Honestly, at the time I went out on a whim and applied. In my high school, we were never pushed to apply for scholarships and I did not know how to go about doing it. So, when I found a scholarship from Study.com that fit with me so perfectly, I went for it. I just spoke the truth and wrote about how I felt, and what changes I would make for our future.
Slowly, I am making those changes I wrote about. Without the support and help from Study.com, I would have never built up the confidence that I have now to know that I am going to go places and I am going to make a difference. The feeling of appreciation you get when you find out you have received assistance to go to college is a feeling I have never felt before. I am forever grateful to Study.com, and I definitely encourage students to do the best they can do and believe in themselves like Study.com believed in me.
Study.com: Please tell us about your plans for after you finish your degree. Are you considering more education, a career change or...?
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MG: After I graduate with my bachelor's degree in criminal justice, I will most likely continue school for an additional year to receive a second bachelor's degree in either psychology or sociology. I am aiming for a double major with a minor in business management. This way, I will receive training and experience in all three fields that are important for the career and changes I will make in the future.
Study.com: If you could have any job in your field, what would it be?
MG: I have always known I have wanted to help people. In second grade, that was my job. People would come to me and ask for advice, and I would tell them my opinion. As I became older, I started to narrow my thoughts and think about whom it was that I wanted to help. Who needed it more? How was somebody like me, who is just one person, going to help a massive amount of people? Simple, you start out on the bottom, and work your way to the top.
I have considered many different jobs, but the place I intend to start is at the Juvenile Probation Office, like my friend, Kay Vail. She has worked there for 30+ years, and is still there to this day. Eventually, I will work my way up the ranks and will have gained enough experience to put my degrees to good use and then have a career change, hopefully in my mid-20s.
The job I am aiming for is to work as a hostage negotiator with the FBI in Quantico. The degrees that I am going for are perfect for the position, and the experience I will be receiving will definitely be beneficial. There are not many people who can handle a position such as this, simply because you are in an extremely stressful situation and one wrong move can cost a life. However, as I get older I am seeing more and more the need for these positions. There are so many things that go on underneath the radar, such as child trafficking, drug wars, sex slaves, etc. These are things that one year ago I would have never known about. Today, knowing that these horrific events are happening right under our noses only fuels my desire to make a difference in our future even more.
Study.com: Finally, what advice would you give someone who's considering pursuing a similar degree program?
MG: Get involved in clubs at your school! I did not get involved in clubs until this year, and I regret not becoming involved earlier. Not only is it a great way to meet others at your school, but it is a great way to give back to the community. See if there is a club available for your specific program, and if not, find another way to be involved in your school.
Also, make sure you are passionate about the program you are going in to. Do not do it for the money, because I guarantee you will not be happy. Especially for people who are pursuing a career in criminal justice or law, you definitely have to be passionate about your program to succeed. Just love what you do, and as long as you do it well, you will be fine.