Eastern Kentucky University’s Color of Justice and Safety Day on Monday featured student success stories, presentations from professionals and information about admissions, financial aid and support services.

The day-long program in the Perkins Building was designed to encourage about 120 students — mostly minorities — to consider careers in law enforcement, criminal and juvenile justice, corrections, fire and safety, emergency medical care, security or as paralegals.

Color of Justice and Safety Day was a collaborative effort involving several EKU academic areas and offices, including the College of Justice and Safety, the African/African-American Studies Program, Paralegal Studies, Multicultural Student Services, Admissions, Academic Advising and the Equal Opportunity Office, as well as the Kentucky Department of Criminal Justice Training and the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights.

“It’s essential that professions that support our democratic institutions accurately reflect the diversity of society,” said Elizabeth Ballou, marketing specialist with the College of Justice and Safety.

“Both the police and the fire chief in Lexington are graduates of this program,” Dean Allen Ault of EKU’s College of Justice and Safety said as he welcomed the students. “We have people in Secret Service, the FBI and fire services across the country, just to mention a few. This is an exciting program. We cover all the first responders and then some in our college. We want to know if you are ready to meet the challenge.”

The Color of Justice was created in August 2001 by Judge Brenda Loftin in St. Louis, Mo., said Cynthia Fox, executive staff advisor for the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights.

Describing mix-it up lunches and cultural excursions, Zenetta Coleman, director of Multicultural Student Affairs at EKU, brought attention to what students can learn from diversity.

“We emphasize the fact that absolutely everyone on this campus belongs on this campus and everyone on this campus has a culture,” she said. “Everyone has something to bring to the table, and each of us can learn from one another.”

In an effort to prepare the potential students for attending Eastern, Kimberly Stewart, diversity recruitment specialist for admission at EKU, expressed the importance of applying to college at the end of junior year of high school and taking the ACT early.

“When I was going through the process of applying for schools I had to take my ACT test five times to get the score that I needed to get in,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how successful you’re going to be once you get into school. It’s just a means of getting into school. After I made the score, I went to school, got my bachelor’s degree in four years, got my master’s in two and I’m working on my Ph.D. today. So, you don’t want that to stop you from being successful.”

Before lunch, the high school students had an opportunity to hear from several justice and safety professionals as they discussed why they chose their careers, their roles and responsibilities and the challenges and rewards of their professions.

The panel, which later met in small groups with the students, included: Lexington Police Chief Anthany Beatty; Cookie Crews, warden for the Kentucky Correctional Institute for Women; Sarah Farris, paralegal for the Madison County Attorney’s office; Cpl. Maudie Hamilton of the Southern Illinois University Police Department; and Patrick Walls of the Carbondale, Ill., Fire Department.

Current College of Justice and Safety students also shared their personal experiences about their time at the university.

“When I first got here, this really wasn’t my first choice for a major,” said Michael Champ, assets protection and security sophomore. “I first wanted to pursue accounting. I didn’t feel like I wanted to sit behind a desk every day and work so I looked and found that criminal justice was really hands-on and there’s a lot of things you can do.”

As an at-risk youth herself, Alisha Williams, correctional and juvenile justice senior, said she wanted to come to the college to work with other at-risk youths.

“Coming to Eastern Kentucky University, I got to be around a lot of influential people,” she said. “I got to experience a lot of opportunities that I never dreamed of.”

Bryan Marshall can be reached at bmarshall@richmondregister.com or 624-6691.

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