Many students begin their college journeys to gain knowledge and skills that will make them employable in their future careers; then there are students like Daniel Vasquez, who began his career in criminal justice straight out of high school and came back to school after years of valuable experience in the field to advance his skills and career.
Vasquez, a detention deputy with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, will graduate in May with his Polk State Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice.
“I never thought I would be here,” Vasquez said reflecting on his educational journey. “I am the first in my family to graduate from college and I began school simply to move up in my job with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, but now I want my master’s degree.”
He started his career with the Florida Department of Corrections working in the prison system at just 19 years old. At 21, he was given the opportunity to work with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office as a detention deputy.
He enrolled at Polk State in 2019 and noted the Criminal Justice Program’s flexibility that allows students to successfully balance their coursework with their professional duties.
The program offers a variety of online and hybrid learning options to meet the needs of busy professionals and prepares them for career advancement and graduate study in criminal justice and related fields.
“I am thankful for the teachers, the College, and the Sheriff’s Office combined; all of them are a piece of the puzzle,” Vasquez said. “They make it possible for people like me to have this opportunity.”
“I am thankful for the teachers, the College, and the Sheriff’s Office combined; all of them are a piece of the puzzle. They make it possible for people like me to have this opportunity.”
Polk State is proud of its longstanding partnership with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
“The Polk County Sheriff’s Office promotes from within and pays for its employees’ education,” Vasquez said. “Polk State’s classes help me understand what I deal with daily.”
Vasquez serves in the mental health unit of the Frostproof South County jail and oversees the care and custody of the jail population.
“Psychology and ethics classes played a big part in helping me work in mental health, demonstrate ethical behavior, and be more empathetic toward those who are struggling,” he explained.
With his degree, he has the opportunity to be promoted to sergeant to oversee a shift of 30 employees.
He says Polk State’s Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Program has prepared him for the next step in his career.
“It’s a well-rounded program that is great for anyone looking to further their knowledge and career in criminal justice,” Vasquez said. “It hits law enforcement, juvenile justice, corrections, homeland security, and more.”
“It hasn’t been easy,” he added. “But because of the opportunities presented at the Sheriff’s Office, I made it through, sometimes taking six classes per semester while working and raising a family.”
His educational and professional growth doesn’t stop here.
“If Polk State offered a master’s degree, I would come here for that too.”