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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

A career jump into Criminal Justice Corrections lands perfectly

September 11, 2017

Bakersfield Criminal Justice Corrections student Tammy Zamora

Tammy Zamora spent years as a court reporter, taking depositions and watching the legal outcomes of law enforcement and the judicial system. Being a part of all that criminal justice action made her want to get into it on a deeper level. Her vision was to become a Corrections Officer.

“One day I just woke up and said, ‘I’m starting school!’ It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” she says.

The Criminal Justice Corrections field was perfect for her. “I’m more of an outgoing person; I like to talk, move around,” says Tammy. As a Court Reporter, she was not allowed to talk to defense attorneys or plaintiffs. In fact, her role was to remain as invisible as possible. Not a good fit.

Tammy got online, found SJVC’s Bakersfield Criminal Justice Corrections (CJC) program and made an appointment to visit the campus. “I knew right away,” she says. Soon she was in orientation and meeting the instructors who would groom her for a career she had been imagining for so many years.

That first day she met Stacy Rocha, Criminal Justice Corrections Program Director, who made a deep impression on her. “I went home thinking, ‘I want to be her,’” says Tammy. “She was a Corrections Officer who had advanced and audited prisons; she had a lot of knowledge. It was just the way she held herself.”

At 44 years old, Tammy is older than most of the other students. But that extra life experience might have given her a little bit of an edge in the classroom; a little more discipline and focus. “It’s going to be harder in the physical part of it,” she offers.

Those physical challenges do not dampen Tammy’s enthusiasm. “I love the full circle of everything: The defensive tactics…being able to take a grown man down…ground exercises, running, push-ups, squats, scaling walls; and that I’m able to do all that at my age.”

Tammy is on track to meet all the physical and academic challenges ahead. “My goal is to continue to get stronger and to protect myself for my time in CDCR (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation), where I’ll take the fitness test in October.”

Tammy had been in the Criminal Justice Corrections program just a few days when she attended an event sponsored by the Kern County Sheriff’s Department, where 92 SJVC Corrections students learned about various career options, examined law enforcement surveillance vehicles and took the Pellet B (POST Entry-level Law Enforcement Test Battery) exam, a mandatory test to qualify for law enforcement positions in California.

It surprised Tammy to be among a few others from SJVC’s Visalia, Lancaster, Fresno and Bakersfield campuses who passed this exam on their first try. “Zamora on her first week of attendance took the Pellet B exam and successfully passed the exam,” says Luis Lara, Criminal Justice Corrections instructor. “I was not nervous taking the test,” says Tammy. “Mrs. Rocha told me to just take it and give it a try.”

Tammy’s preparedness and self-confidence are high. Her personal strengths and ambitions are well supported by both her instructors and her fellow students.

“Our instructors are there for us 100%,” she says. “I am privileged and honored to have them. They all have backgrounds in law enforcement and are there to help us succeed.”

Tammy admits to being a little surprised at how close she and her fellow classmates have become. “We are one big brotherhood of law enforcement; a small family that always has each other’s back,” she says. “Even when we’re doing physical training, we never leave someone behind. We go back and encourage them to get to the finish.”

Tammy is focused on her own finish line. She is currently balancing two jobs, school and a busy home life that includes her fur babies, Toby and Shredder, and six baby goats. Her parents, Richard and Sandy, are staying with her while her mom recovers from an illness.

She averages about 5 hours of sleep each night, getting up between 2 and 3 a.m. most mornings. “It’s a quiet time to study.”

Her focus is paying off. “I’m in the Academy right now and got a 98% on my first test last week – the top test score.”

Tammy has almost a year to go before she completes her Criminal Justice Corrections program, but she is already looking far ahead. “I’ve always kind of done things for everybody else,” she says. “I’m finally making myself happy.”

A career in law enforcement is that happy place for Tammy. “I know that it’s a fulfilling career, so I’m going to work to get myself in there and advance my career.”

Her sights are set on becoming a Corrections Officer for the CDCR. “After I graduate (SJVC), I’m going to continue with my Bachelor’s degree online,” says Tammy. “With two to three years of working as a Corrections Officer, I hope to advance to Probation or Parole Officer.”

Tammy feels that employment prospects are high. “The CDCR is looking for females,” she says. “There are lots of state prisons and quite a few right around here.”

How does she feel about working in a lock-up facility those first few years? “I will protect myself, give it 100% and as soon as I walk out of the facility, I leave it behind.”

Tammy is physically and mentally prepared for whatever her new career brings her way.


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