Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of EMCC On The Job stories we’ll bring you over the summer highlighting some of EMCC’s former students and graduates in their new jobs. From opening their own restaurants to coding for international finance companies, EMCC students have gone on to great things, all because they left here well prepared. As former EMCC student Omar Gonzalez, who now works in our Technology Services Department, said, “The instructors here were very influential. They gave me a glimpse of what my career could be and now I’m living it!”
Katelin Carnahan always knew she wanted to go into criminal justice. But she took a slight detour before beginning her journey to her forever career.
“I was enrolled to study criminal justice at University of Arizona but I had been working part time in a hair salon and thought I’d go to beauty school instead, so I backed out of U of A,” she said. “I got my license and started doing hair and realized I wasn’t passionate at all about it.”
So the Goodyear resident enrolled at Estrella Mountain Community College (EMCC) and never looked back.
“Estrella taught me a lot about responsibility,” she said.
The self-described “average high school student” took basic math and English classes her first semester and got A’s in both of them.
“I felt so proud of myself,” she said. “So I set a goal to maintain a 4.0 GPA for the rest of my studies and managed to do that.”
Professor Jim Cerven, Administration of Justice Studies Program Director, played a big part in Katelin’s sticking to her goal.
“Early on in my studies, I took a class with Mr. Cerven and I remember being so intrigued as he would tell stories of being a police officer with NYPD,” she said. “His passion for law enforcement just really showed when he taught us and he always went the extra mile to help his students succeed.”
Professor Cerven remembers Katelin as a conscientious, committed, and highly motivated student.
“I observed her leadership abilities as she willingly assisted her classmates with group work and various class projects,” he said. “She was extremely dedicated to her studies and always actively participated in class discussions.”
Professor Cerven invited several guest speakers into his classroom to share insights into their professions, and kept his students apprised of internship opportunities to expose them to the myriad careers in the criminal justice field. Katelin took full advantage of the internship opportunities afforded to her, completing three while attending EMCC: one with the Phoenix Police Department, another with the Medical Examiner’s Office, and a third with the U.S. Marshals Service.
“Katelin’s successful completion of her internships in addition to completing her studies is an amazing accomplishment,” Professor Cerven said.
Her internships coupled with Professor Cerven’s encouragement led Katelin to choose a career in law enforcement.
“Being a female, I was a little intimidated by this profession, but Mr. Cerven never once made me feel like I should be intimidated by it,” she said. “He actually encouraged it. So the more classes I took with him and instructors like him, the more I felt drawn to a career in law enforcement.”
Professor Cerven said Katelin is a good fit for law enforcement.
“She has common sense, which is a very important character trait for this line of work,” he said. “She also has good communication skills and is a compassionate person. She’s also trustworthy, dependable, and has a strong work ethic.”
After earning her Associate in Art, Associate in Applied Science in Administration of Justice, and a Certificate of Completion in Administration of Justice in 2014 from EMCC, Katelin transferred to Northern Arizona University (NAU) where she received her bachelor’s a year later in Interdisciplinary Studies.
Armed with knowledge and relationships she’d made along the way through her many internships, Katelin applied to the Phoenix Police Department. Within three months of graduating, she was hired and on her way to the Arizona Law Enforcement Academy (ALEA). The 20-week training course was difficult, but Katelin had prepared herself for it, both mentally and physically.
“Every day, there was some kind of challenge,” she said. “They put you to the test and make you feel uncomfortable — all the things I expected — but never once did I think, ‘This isn’t for me.’ I knew I could do it, I knew I could get through it.”
Katelin just celebrated her three-year anniversary with Phoenix PD and said the best part about her job is feeling like she’s making a difference.
“This job can be physically and mentally challenging, but at the end of the day, if I can go home and truly say that I made a difference in someone’s life, then I’m just proud of my job and proud to be a police officer,” she said.
For the most part, the job is what she expected, “but what I’ve noticed about being in this profession is to expect the unexpected,” she said. “Sometimes, it’s the calls that sound the most dangerous that turn into really nothing at all, but it’s the calls that sound pretty relaxed that can turn into something really dangerous.”
One aspect of her job that she didn’t expect was to be treated so fairly as a female in a male-dominated field.
“I definitely add a lot of pressure to myself to perform, but I don’t feel like my department has added pressure for me to perform, and I feel like I’ve been treated very well by my male counterparts and my superiors,” she said. “I’ve also been treated fairly by the public.”
Katelin said she loves her job and feels blessed to have gone through EMCC’s Administration of Justice program with such amazing instructors.
“School was definitely not something I dreaded coming to,” she said. “I loved coming to school, specifically my criminal justice classes.”
To learn more about EMCC’s Administration of Justice program, visit https://www.estrellamountain.edu/programs/administration-justice.
EMCC offers a variety of associate degrees and certificates and partners closely with Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, and University of Arizona, as well as more than 40 out-of-state, private, and online colleges and universities, for transfer programs. Classes can be taken in person, online, or in a hybrid format. To begin your journey, visit https://www.estrellamountain.edu/students/enrollment-steps.