While five of Knightdale’s men in uniform spend their days cracking down on crime, their evenings are spent cracking open books.
The town is helping pay for eight town employees to finish various associate’s, bachelor’s and graduate degrees.
During budget discussions for fiscal year 2016, the town’s human resources department is requesting $12,079 for tuition, about the same as the budget line last year. Students requested $20,104 total. Generally, this amount contributes toward two semesters of classes without books or extra materials.
Accounting manager Joanna Gombatz and purchasing agent Brent Quick are pursuing their undergraduate and associate degrees, respectively. Firefighter Ronnie Privette has begun his associate degree recently as well. Senior planner Jason Brown is pursuing graduate studies. Police Officer Doug Crouch is also making use of the benefit.
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Half the program’s participants are in the police department, including Chief Lawrence Capps, who is completing his bachelor’s in criminal justice through Liberty University Online.
Although Capps, 37, initially pursued a degree in education at UNC-Wilmington after high school, he switched directions for financial reasons. In the late nineties, he worked as a state correctional officer and completed Basic Law Enforcement Training.
Now, he said, he’s witnessed his two passions merge as he trains officers.
Life happened, and although he had promised his family to complete his degree, career and family took over. Now, he’s fulfilling the promise by studying on nights and weekends.
“It can be a little hectic,” Capps said. “But one compliments the other. ... I can take theory, bookwork, and be able to apply it. That has given me somewhat of a edge up on some of the material.
I would imagine there would have been opportunities I could have taken in the past, despite not having (a degree,) but I’m very blessed in the positions that give me the opportunity to show me what I can do.”
School resource officer Pete Smith encourages his students to pursue their two-year degree to open more high-paying opportunities.
He’s currently completing his third semester for a criminal justice degree from Wake Technical Community College, although he already had obtained credits through Basic Law Enforcement Training.
Smith, 42, was recently named Knightdale’s Police Officer of the Year, switching to law enforcement in 2007 after pursuing a career as a master automotive technician at a car dealership.
“In three semesters it’s already opened my eyes in so many things that we deal with,” he said about his studies, which he had considered pursuing for several years. “Like the theories behind why people behave a certain way. It’s entertaining and fun.”
Lt. Orlando Soto, 42, has his eyes at the top, steadily pursuing both academic and career goals. In 2013, he completed his associate’s from Wake Tech, and he aims to complete his bachelor’s from Western Carolina University in criminal justice with a concentration in administration.
Soto has worked with the Knightdale Police Department since transferring from Durham in 2006. He was recently promoted from detective.
When starting in Knightdale, he said that weekly evening classes for two and a half years with the town’s public safety division “conditioned him” to take classes, so he decided not to stop. With increasing responsibility should come increasing professional development, he said.
“Once you’re placed in a leadership role, education is paramount. You continue to better yourself,” Soto said.
Balancing work and school can present a weighty challenge to any student, but adding a family and a steady career path can add increasing obstacles. Soto found that during investigations, sometimes lasting 48 hours straight, keeping up with homework wasn’t an option.
“I’m a no excuses, only results type of person,” he said. “I pay for it, I have no choice.”
Smith summed up the strain frankly: “It’s difficult. But if you want to better yourself, you’ve got to make sacrifices.”