Friday, April 8, 2011

Wants to keep kids out of his workplace

alexcropAlex Esparza is getting used to his job – and he doesn’t like that.
     “You get desensitized to things,” said Alex, a corrections officer at the Skagit County Juvenile Detention Center. “Kids charged with robbery or assault. That used to be shocking and heartbreaking. But, after time, it gets normal.”
     He’s been a corrections officer for eight years, and was recently promoted to shift supervisor. He watches the kids when they leave their rooms, and checks them every 15 minutes when they return. Their ages range from 12 to 17. “When they have their 18th birthday in detention, we have to walk them over to the jail.”
     When Alex was a senior in high school, he left home and moved in with a friend. “We spent most of our time partying,” he said. “I got kicked out of school for not going and I didn’t get my diploma until I was 21.”
     Those early experiences left him with a “passion for being around kids and talking with them about their lives. But it’s hard to help once they’ve been arrested. More... “One of my main goals,” he said, “is to try to work with them out in the community, to be proactive and keep them out of trouble.”
     Alex wants to be a probation officer or counselor. He earned his associate’s degree from Skagit Valley College, but to reach his goals, he needs a bachelor’s degree. “I work 40 hours a week, and moving wasn’t an option,” he said. He and his wife looked at online options — but not all of them.
     “We didn’t look at the for-profits,” he said. “We wanted something from a credible college. I was pretty excited when I found WSU Online. When I found out the degree would say WSU, I thought it would be great to say I graduated from Washington State University.”
     At first, Alex was intimidated by the prospect of taking WSU courses. “Skagit is one thing, I thought, but this is WSU. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do it,” he said. “But I found out it was manageable, something I could do while working, as long as I stayed focused and disciplined.”
     Alex said the classes are well organized, and he appreciates being able to see the syllabus before registering: “You know what to expect from the course before you sign up,” he said. “That helps a lot.”
     Alex also praised his academic consultant, Chrisi Kincaid. “She laid out my APR (academic progress report),” he said. “Those APRs are just great. You know what you have to do and you can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
     Alex has a 3.57 GPA and plans to graduate in May 2012 with a degree in social sciences. Then he’ll be able to show others that the tunnel leads to light.

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