Sibling rivalry benefited Criminal Justice: Corrections program graduate
Elizabeth Pelayo and her brother Armando have a long history of healthy competition between them. They didn’t expect things to be any different when they both enrolled in the Criminal Justice: Corrections program on the Modesto campus.
“There’s a competition between us; it’s always been that way,” says Elizabeth, who at 21-years-old is a year younger than her brother. “We’re always trying to beat each other, but we encourage each other, too.”
That friendly warfare pushed them both to the top of their game in the Criminal Justice: Corrections program.
One of Elizabeth’s favorite parts of the program was shooting a gun at the range. “I’ve shot guns before, but that was the first time I actually aimed at a target,” she says. “I beat my brother (score), and he wasn’t too happy, but he gave me credit.”
“The most fun I had competing with Elizabeth has to be in the Academy,” says Armando. “We were always battling to beat each other in all the physical activity.”
She admits that Armando made the better grades in class. “He didn’t have to study as hard as I did,” she says. “He would hear it once and it would stick in his head.”
Elizabeth has wanted a career in corrections since she was a sophomore in high school, and she has never looked back. “When I set my mind to something, I go and achieve it,” she says.
But she didn’t know that it would be San Joaquin Valley College that would help her get to that career goal. She was enrolled in a Corrections program at another college when they suddenly closed their doors. SJVC did what they could to absorb students wanting to continue their education and training.
“I’m glad I transferred because SJVC offered a lot more,” says Elizabeth. “The other school didn’t offer certifications or the Academy part,” she explains. “And this program has teachers from criminal justice (previous careers), and they can teach you what they’ve been through. They were always there when we needed help.”
Elizabeth says that her biggest surprise about the Criminal Justice: Corrections program was the other students. “We were all really like a family, not like (other school) where we all had like our own little cliques going on,” she says. “When I walked in, the vibe was just completely different.”
“Elizabeth was a good student and performed well academically,” says Donald Martin, Criminal Justice: Corrections Program Director. “She always maintained a positive attitude and a smile for all the staff at SJVC.”
Elizabeth’s parents, Maya and Armando, have encouraged her all along the way. “Keep your head held high, and keep pushing toward your goal and you will get there soon,” they told her. She listened.
Elizabeth completed her Criminal Justice: Corrections program and this April she became a Corrections Officer for the Merced County Sheriff’s Department. She is about to complete her 9 weeks of training before she is assigned to the main County Jail where her responsibilities will include booking inmates, pat-downs and making rounds.
“I feel pretty confident in interacting with the inmates,” she says. And, if there are physical confrontations? “I’m very comfortable with all that.”
Her brother is in total agreement. “Elizabeth is a nice calm person, but when things get tough, she can be a physical person and overcome any obstacle in her way,” says Armando. “And I believe that would help her out a lot in the law enforcement career.”
Elizabeth was on the wrestling team in high school and brought home more than her share of medals. She liked winning. Did she win a lot? “Yes, I did,” she says. Elizabeth adds that her family liked to tease her about her love of wrestling. “My guy cousins would say, ‘Don’t mess with her; she’s going to beat your butt.’”
Elizabeth may be tough, but she chose her Aunt Ramona as her role model. “She’s a pre-school teacher, has always been really honest and tries to help others whenever she can,” says Elizabeth. “I told her last year that I wanted to be like her.”
No doubt, Elizabeth will get her chance. Her dream is to, one day, become a Probation Officer. “I want to work with juveniles, make sure they stay on track with what they are supposed to be doing: Staying out of trouble,” she says. “I’ve seen a lot of kids I went to high school with taking the wrong path. I want to try to help kids get on the right path before it’s too late.”
Elizabeth is on her own way toward being a role model for someone else: Kids in desperate need of someone just like her.
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