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Major: criminal justice comprehensive
Organizations: Sigma Lambda Beta and Alpha Phi Sigma Honor Society
By SARA GIBONEY
KEARNEY – Carlos Palacios wasn’t sure if he even wanted to attend college.
But seeing the struggles of kids in his community inspired him to pursue a degree in criminal justice at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Palacios will become the first in his family to earn a college degree. He will receive his bachelor of science in criminal justice Friday.
Palacios, who is from Guanajuato, Mexico, graduated from Lexington High School in 2006, and worked at Landmark Implement Inc., a John Deere dealership.
When his boss at the dealership offered to help pay his tuition at Southeast Community College in Milford, Palacios reluctantly agreed.
“At first, I didn’t want to go to college.”
He earned his associate of applied science degree from the college, and returned to work at Landmark Implement where he worked for two more years.
But Palacios saw a need in his community.
“There weren’t a lot of programs to help kids. Kids that were on probation were struggling,” he said. “I wanted to make a difference and do something that could help kids.”
Three weeks before the 2010 fall semester began, Palacios quit his job and enrolled at UNK.
“I had a little money saved, but not enough for tuition.”
He wasn’t able to get financial assistance, so his parents, Daniel and Carmen Palacios, agreed to pay his tuition as long as he earned As and Bs.
Even with his parents help, Palacios struggled to get by while attending UNK. He has worked at Nick’s Gyros for the past two-and-a-half years to pay for his monthly expenses.
The support from faculty and resources such as the Writing Center helped Palacios succeed in his classes, which gave him the drive to keep working.
“I liked the one-on-one interaction with professors. They know your name and make you feel comfortable about talking to them. They make it so you’re not afraid to ask questions.”
During a trip to California two years ago, Palacios’ interest was piqued about the Los Angeles Police Department. In a recent class, he was given an assignment to research a potential employer in the criminal justice field. Palacios took the assignment one step further and applied for a job with the LAPD.
Palacios was invited to complete the Personal Qualifications Essay, the second step in the application process. He flew to Los Angeles during Spring Break to take the test, which evaluates judgment, decision making and behavioral flexibility.
He passed the test and can now move on to the third step in the application – the background investigation and polygraph examination.
However, Palacios can’t afford to make another trip to Los Angeles to take the test. He plans to work until he saves up enough money to go back to California. The LAPD also requires a physical abilities test, a department interview, a medical evaluation and psychological evaluation to be considered for employment.
Palacios will begin working at the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center as a youth security specialist in June.
But working as a lawyer also weighs on Palacios’ mind.
With some encouragement from political science professor Peter Longo, Palacios took a tour of the University of Nebraska College of Law in Lincoln.
“I wanted to make certain that I conveyed to him that I recognized his abundant talents,” Longo said. “Whether he goes to law school or does police work or works at YRTC, he will be able to take on any job with ease. He’ll be a success in any field he enters.”
Although Palacios does dream of attending law school someday, he decided to put it off until he can save money for tuition.
He hopes to become a criminal defense attorney or practice immigration law. Working with immigrants would be especially meaningful for Palacios. He, his parents and siblings – Juan and Judith – immigrated to Greeley, Colo., from Mexico in 1991 and moved to Lexington the following year.
Getting support from the community and dealing with the language barrier was a struggle for his parents, Palacios said. Becoming permanent U.S. residents took nearly 20 years. Palacios and his family are still working to become citizens.
“He has a great sense of humility and kindness,” Longo added. “I can always feel his sense of care and concern. He’s also really smart. His comments are always insightful and his writing work is always first rate.”
Source: Carlos Palacios, 308.746.1550
Writer: Sara Giboney, 308.865.8529, firstname.lastname@example.org