Making justice matter

When Sabrina Gonzalez finished high school in June 2012, she left Janesville for a new life with her cousin in Chicago. Only one thing was certain.

“I wasn’t a big fan of school,’’ she said, “so I wasn’t going to school. I felt like I wasn’t smart enough.’’

That was to change a few months later when her mother, Teresa, called her in Chicago.

“She told me I had to come home because she and my father (Douglas) had signed me up for college and I began classes in three weeks.’’

She grudgingly conceded to her parents’ choice. Now, three years later, she is readying for another journey, this one to Oklahoma.

But instead of not having any interest in education, she is armed with a degree in Criminal Justice from Blackhawk Technical College and looking to establish residency in her new state in order to get a position as a correctional officer at the Oklahoma County Juvenile Detention Center.

And she is not ready to put the books away, yet. She is planning on getting her bachelor’s degree online. “I don’t care if it takes five years, six years,’’ she said. “I want to get that done.’’

That sort of determination was honed over three years at Blackhawk. She admits her college career began slowly after her parents pushed her enrollment. But after a year, she noticed her grades getting better. Her interest in the Criminal Justice was spiked by her instructors.

“I just didn’t care about high school,’’ she explained. “School didn’t help me much. But I shook that off when I realized I could do it here.’’

Gonzalez was a non-traditional student in more ways than one. As a woman in the protective services field, she is in a distinct minority. Only 14 percent of those involved in this field are women.

That so-called minority status certainly didn’t inhibit Gonzalez. While she dived into her studies, she explored opportunities outside the classroom. By the time she graduated in June, she had done a work study project as a campus security officer and represented BTC as a student ambassador.

“Blackhawk became my second home,’’ she said.

Perhaps most surprising to her is that she ended up a tutor to other students in the Criminal Justice program.

“When I was recommended as a tutor, I was shocked,’’ she recalled. “My first reaction was you can’t be serious. But I am so glad I did it.’’

As she looks back on her experiences at Blackhawk, she is reminded of how that will play a major role in her future.

“While I wasn’t happy when it happened, I am so happy that my parents forced me to go here and I’m so thankful that they pushed me,’’ she said.

“I’m so glad I went to Blackhawk. There are so many opportunities for you, and I was surprised by how many people really care about you.’’ 

For information about non-traditional careers, please contact (608) 328-8207.