Scholarship From The Sheriff

OCC student Kristine Block (right) is presented with the New York State Sheriff’s Association Scholarship by Onondaga County Sheriff Gene Conway (center). On the left is Jessica Field, Chair of OCC’s Criminal Justice major.

Kristine Block is busy. Very busy. She’s a 36-year-old mother of two who works in a service industry and is in her first semester as a full-time student in OCC’s Criminal Justice major. She recently carved out enough time to apply for an annual scholarship from the New York State Sheriff’s Association. She wrote an essay about her life story and her dream of a career in law enforcement.

Earlier this month Onondaga County Sheriff Gene Conway came to campus bearing a gift just in time for the holiday season. “It’s an honor to present you with this check on behalf of the New York State Sheriffs Association which does a lot of great things across the state. Congratulations,” said Conway. “Receiving this means a lot,” said Block. “It’s not something that was handed to me. I had to work for it. The essay was very personal. I chose to write about my journey and how I ended up here as old as I am.”

Block grew up in a military family, moving to wherever the United States Army assigned her father. She was born in Syracuse, raised in California and moved back to Syracuse later in life. When she began exploring careers in law enforcement, she realized she had aged out of some options. “I figured there were other things I could still do within the policing community. I explored options, realized I needed schooling and here I am.”

Her first semester on campus has gone well. She feels comfortable in class, loves her major and has strengthened her relationship with her 16 year old son. “Going to school at an older age has brought me closer together with my high school-aged son because we fight for the computer, sit and do homework together and he proofreads my essays.”

Block’s essay which earned her the scholarship struck a chord with Criminal Justice Department Chair and Professor Jessica Field. “What you’ve done and how far you’ve come is very touching,” she told Block. “You’re working really hard and you’re raising your kids. You are very deserving of this.”

Sheriff’s Scholarship Winner

Onondaga County Sheriff Gene Conway (left) presents OCC Criminal Justice major Brittney Hickey (right) with the New York State Sheriff’s Association’s scholarship.

Brittney Hickey is working non-stop to achieve her career goals. She’s raising two children, working nights at the Elmcrest Children’s Center and is a full-time student in OCC’s Criminal Justice major. Earlier this week she was rewarded with a visit from Onondaga County Sheriff Gene Conway who presented her with the New York State Sheriff’s Association’s annual scholarship.

Hickey has a background in law enforcement. She previously worked as a corrections officer in North Carolina. The experience was eye-opening. “I didn’t like the way corrections officers and staff were treating the people there. Even though they are inmates, they’re still human beings and I have morals. I thought, ‘I can actually help people when they get out of this situation if they’re willing to push for it.’”

Based on her experience, Hickey decided she wanted to become a probation officer and enrolled in OCC’s Criminal Justice major in the spring of 2017. After a year on campus she’s convinced she made the right choice. “The teachers here make it easy to understand things. They have a level of experience which really helps them teach you.”

Criminal Justice Professor Jessica Field says Hickey is very deserving of the scholarship. “She is a great student who is focused on her career goal. She is an extremely hard worker who puts her education right up there with work and raising her two children. Without a doubt, she will succeed in the criminal justice field.”

Hickey says she will use the money from the New York State Sheriff’s Association’s scholarship to pay for her classes this summer. Her goal is to earn her degree in May 2019.

Sheriff’s Association Scholarship Winner

Criminal Justice major Eric Watson is the 2015 recipient of the New York State Sheriff’s Association’s annual scholarship. Onondaga County Sheriff Gene Conway presented Watson with a $250 check February 18 in Mawhinney Hall.

Watson is a 34-year-old Syracuse native who attended Fowler High School. He spent 10 years working as an auto mechanic but realized he needed a change. “My heart was never really in it. My grandfather was a firefighter in Solvay for most of his life and I was always interested in some sort of public service,” Watson said.

Since arriving at OCC he has thrived in the Criminal Justice major. “Coming here has reaffirmed I made the right decision and makes me want this career even more,” said Watson. “Eric is a great student. He has a great GPA and we are very happy and excited for him,” said Criminal Justice Professor Jessica Field who oversees the scholarship program.

The need-based scholarship is awarded to the student who writes the best essay explaining why he or she needs the money and what they would do with it. Watson is putting a portion of the money toward paying the registration fee for an upcoming police exam. The age cut off for the exam is 35. It’s his one and only chance to pass it. Onondaga County Sheriff Gene Conway views Watson’s age as a strength. “Sometimes the officers who start later wind up being among the best officers because of the level of maturity they bring to the job,” said Conway.

Watson is on track to graduate in December 2015. He’s hoping to do an internship with a law enforcement agency this summer. His career goal is to become a probation officer. “I want to help people who are transitioning back into society,” he said.