Many jobs can come and go before that just-right career comes into focus
Annarose Rivera kissed a lot of career frogs before finding the perfect match. She had worked fast food, hospital housekeeping, retail sales, customer service, security guard and daycare staffer before deciding she wanted a career that would generate a real passion for her work.
“I knew I wanted a degree in something,” she says. However, a most unlikely choice kept popping into her head. When she would say it out loud to friends and family, they would all try to dissuade her. But it kept resurfacing. Law enforcement.
“Before about two years ago I had no interest in being [in corrections], at all,” Annarose explains. When she finally decided to act on her impulse, things came together very quickly. “It happened overnight. I googled SJVC (San Joaquin Valley College) and never left that idea after that.”
She made an appointment with a staff Admissions Advisor at the college to explore the Criminal Justice: Corrections (CJC) Associate degree program and tour the Temecula campus. She liked what she saw.
“It went so smooth, I had no second thoughts about the whole process of enrolling,” says Annarose. “Before I knew it, I was signing financial papers.”
There was a deeper reason at play for her career choice. “My dad, my brother, my sister, have all been in jail,” says Annarose. “I felt like I could be the difference. Instead of my last name being part of a booking number, it can be part of a badge number.”
Her career choice didn’t set well within the family. “At first my mom was disappointed, because she’s had bad experiences with law enforcement,” says Annarose. But her mom trusted her daughter to follow her instincts and make her own life decisions.
Annarose began her CJC program in February 2019 and immediately rose to the top of her class. She learned about law enforcement procedures, protocol, communication techniques and how to diffuse potentially volatile situations. She learned how to use physical force for those extreme occasions when encounters turn combative.
She shares a lot of her newfound knowledge with family members in hopes of expanding their own perspectives. “We have these debates and they sometimes hold onto that old image of cops, but it doesn’t come between us anymore.”
Growing up, their household was always just barely holding together. “We were seven kids, a blended family (of varying genetic ties) raised by a single mom, because Dad was in and out of jail,” says Annarose. “We never really saw mom because she was always working.”
By the time Annarose was in middle school, she carried much of the childcare responsibility. “All day long we played school and I would help them with their homework. It made me grow up pretty fast. I definitely feel a lot older now than twenty years old.”
For many of those years, Annarose felt frozen, watching the many family dramas unfold around her and locked into providing some form of stability for those even younger and less equipped to balance themselves on unsteady ground. She tried to make up for the scattered pieces of her family.
Annarose is surprised to have found another family in her Corrections program classmates. “In law enforcement that’s what it is, a big family. We care about each other, we motivate each other.” Her class of 22 students is a cross-section of age, background and career interests.
“Our oldest cadet is in his fifties and our youngest is eighteen,” says Annarose. “With our degrees, we can go into different avenues…Correction Officer, security or office work. There are job opportunities for all ages.”
Proper preparation is key. “They (faculty) don’t sugarcoat what it’s like; they let us know that it’s not easy,” says Annarose. “They share their experiences (on the job) and there are some things that I hope don’t happen to me. But I feel like, at this point, I am properly prepared. There’s nothing that can stop me, no story that someone can tell me that’s going to make me not want to be a cop.”
The physical demands of the Criminal Justice Corrections program are challenging. “It can be difficult,” explains Annarose. “One of my professors loves cross-fit, and we definitely pay the price for that,” she laughs.
SJVC’s Criminal Justice Corrections program curriculum includes 15 weeks of the Standard Corrections Training (SCT) academy. “We are in our last 5-weeks of the SCT that includes running 1.5 miles in under 15 minutes, 25 pushups in under a minute and you have to get over a 6’ wall,” says Annarose. “The strategy is to push from your legs,” she confides.
Annarose has added some muscle to her small frame. “You have to be that person who can not only defend yourself, but others around you, as well.”
With a 3.79 GPA, Annarose is meeting academic goals and has earned the rank of Lieutenant, the second highest ranking cadet, in her class.
“She is a pleasure to have in class and represents SJVC with pride and professionalism,” says Kent Chivington, CJC Program Director and faculty member.
She balances the demands of school with a week-day position at a daycare facility and weekend security guard responsibilities that pull about 50-60 hours of her time each week. “I’ve been doing it the whole time I’ve been in school,” says Annarose.
She is not one to indulge in self-pride but does feel the compliment of one area of influence. “I had two people actually enroll in the program because they saw how I was doing. One I went to high school with me and one I worked with when he was a security guard. I gave him the background of how the program works and he got inspired. It was a proud moment for me.”
Annarose has many more proud moments ahead.
She is in the process of completing requirements for a position with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). “I might be starting full-time as soon as I graduate (June 2020).”
Annarose’s long-range goals include a Bachelor’s degree. “I can use my [Bachelor’s] degree to be a counselor, but long-term I want to be a sheriff in the Riverside Sheriff’s Department.”
She has come a long way from her chaotic beginnings. It is not surprising that law enforcement has a particular appeal. It represents the exact opposite of the path many family members chose. It defines order, responsibility and earned respect. And it reflects the qualities that Annarose holds high and chooses to embody.
Many others in her sphere of influence are sure to watch and follow.
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