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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Life-threatening injury sparks interest in Corrections career

September 10, 2018

Temecula Corrections student Madison Olson with Officer JenMadison Olson spent her 16th birthday in a coma. It wasn’t the Sweet Sixteen party so many teen girls dream about. In fact, there was no celebration at all – except that quiet, heartfelt one her family felt that she was alive.

Even after waking from her coma a month later, Madison was on a long, slow path to complete recovery from a skateboard accident that a helmet would likely have made a get-up-and-dust-off incident. “Something so little is so necessary,” she says. “I could have gotten up and walked home. And I could have lost my life.” Madison left the hospital with a lengthy schedule of physical therapy appointments.

“I felt like a literal baby: I couldn’t walk, and they were trying to teach me to play catch, how to kick a ball again,” says Madison. “That was the state I was in for a long time.”

But she also had a newfound fierce determination to reconnect with the world and the people in it. Part of her self-designed therapy was to immerse herself in part-time employment and social activities.

For the next four years, Madison worked in retail on the cash register and as a dishwasher in a restaurant before she moved up to appetizer prep, then part of the wait staff. “I’m a social butterfly and love communicating,” she enthuses. “I needed the one-on-one contact to help build my social skills. It was important to my recovery to build those skills as a server, busser – anything to teach me to communicate with people again.”

Life, school and recovery were progressing nicely when one day she came home to find Officer Jen Metoyer waiting to speak with her. “I see a cop and she’s showing her badge to me, and I was scared,” says Madison. “What did I do?” was her first thought. But her mom Autumn looked calm, so she shook off her feeling of dread.

“Officer Jen is a motorcycle cop and traffic investigator famous for her long braid down her back,” says Madison. And Officer Jen had a big idea. She wondered if Madison would be interested in speaking to middle school students about her accident – and how it might have been prevented. She could share a valuable message about helmet safety from a powerful first-person experience. Madison was all in.

“Usually right before winter break and at the end of the school year, I stand in front of 100 to 200 kids and tell them what happened to me,” says Madison. Officer Jen makes the introductions. “They watch a slide show of photos that detail my injuries, a video of me talking about my stay at the hospital and the state I was in, and me in physical therapy learning how to walk, speak and eat again. An EMT first responder to my accident is there and speaks to the kids, and my mom makes a speech that makes me cry every time. It’s reliving what happened.”

Madison feels good being a part of something that might save kids’ lives. Her story could be the thing that sends them out the door with a little more information about safety – and a helmet.

Somewhere along this path of reaching out to kids, something very unexpected happened. “I was never really interested in the police profession at all, but Jen changed my view of it,” says Madison. “Teaching people – especially kids – why obeying the law is important, being a great role-model; I could inspire kids. I could be that person, every day.”

Officer Jen gave her some material about SJVC’s Criminal Justice Corrections program in Temecula. “Right off the bat I checked on it,” says Madison. She went to a Class Information Day and spoke with instructors and current students about the program.

“They made me feel as though there was a support system. At SJVC, they don’t want to just see a piece of paper in your hand, they want to see you succeed. They want you to have a career, so they continue to be involved in your life.”

The Criminal Justice Corrections program is demanding, and Madison was going in with a couple of challenges. “I’m now deaf in my left ear, but I’m getting my hearing aid; and I can’t smell 100%, but there’s nothing I can do about that.” Definitely not show-stoppers for her.

“I’m not someone who likes to be told I can’t do something,” she states matter-of-factly. “I’ll say ‘watch me,’ I’m going to do it.”

She hits the gym every morning for an hour or two and puts her 5’ 1,” 114-pound body through rigorous routines. “What I don’t have in height I make up in muscle strength,” she assures. “I’m back in shape.”

Madison responds well to the discipline required from cadets in the Corrections program. “I have no problem obeying orders, and constructive criticism is good for me,” she says. “We have a great group of students, the most diverse group I’ve ever been involved in – religious, ethnicity, cultural backgrounds, geography, age. It’s teaching us that being a cop is learning not to prejudge people based on those differences.”

A couple of months in, Madison has earned a 4.0 GPA, received the Chief’s Citation Award by the Murrieta Police Department, and is the highest-ranking Cadet in the program, as she was recently promoted to the rank of Captain.

“From day one, Madison showed a motivation to be a leader and role model to her fellow Cadets,” says Kent Chivington, Corrections instructor. “She is an inspiration to all her fellow Cadets, and her desire is for everyone who starts the Corrections program to graduate and begin working in their desired career field.”

Madison is committed to her career in law enforcement. “I’ve wanted to do so many careers here and there,” she remembers. “This is the one I really have a passion for. I’m willing to lose sleep over homework, and I’m not even tired out by it.”

She is where she wants to be, even if she is not sure exactly what that might look like. “At first, I wanted to be a motorcycle cop, then I wanted to work with canines, and then sex trafficking,” she says. “DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) was interesting. Then I visited a men’s prison and thought about being a correctional officer there. I got to stand 10 feet away from a murderer. I’ve grown an interest in so many areas.”

Just don’t make the mistake of telling her she can’t do some of those roles she is considering.


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