Internship Experience Leads to Job Offer for Nontraditional Student

 In Students

Deputy Ricky Domingo, left, and student Wanda Vega, right.

Once Wanda Vega sets a goal, nothing stops her from accomplishing it.

She wanted to teach children, so she became a certified preschool teacher, while also obtaining her credentials for preschool directorship.

She wanted to work in the field of law as well, possibly by becoming a lawyer. While the path to that dream took a detour, the nontraditional criminal justice student is excited to begin working as the new judicial process specialist for the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, following her May 2018 graduation from UCF.

Vega said she was astonished when offered the position at St. Johns County Sherriff’s Office. She had previously interned with the sheriff’s office during spring 2017, following an internship with the Volusia County Sherriff’s office.

“Being offered a position with the agency made me feel valued,” she said. “I had not expected to be the person that they selected for the position.”

Associate Professor Cory Watkins, undergraduate program director and internship coordinator for criminal justice students, worked closely with Vega and said the internships she took helped her focus on her dreams and goals.

“It helped her hone in the skills that she had, but also explore areas where she needed improvement based on what her site supervisor said,” Watkins indicated.

[Deputy] Ricky Domingo, community affairs deputy for the office of the sheriff in St. Johns County, called Vega a “stand-out intern.”

“Wanda was an over achiever,” he said. “She always maintained good communications with me during her entire internship. She was very responsive to change and did everything with a positive attitude.”

During Vega’s internship with the St. Johns office, she worked with many units, including the administration, communications, corrections and more. She also went above and beyond what was required of her.

Additional learning opportunities were available for the interns, but were not requirements of the program. In the past, interns would take advantage of one or two of the additional opportunities, Domingo said. Vega took advantage of every chance she had to learn more.

During her internship, Vega accumulated 152.75 hours.

“It was a pleasure having her as an intern and I believe our agency is better because she stayed on,” Domingo said.

One of the driving forces behind her decision to return to school was to show her children the value of a good education in their lives.

“Education is the key to unlocking all potential and success in the world,” she said.

Watkins stated that Vega’s story highlights the importance of internships for undergraduate students and their future success.

“For those of us who go to college, when you complete it, no matter at what level, you get excited for that first real job,” he said. “Even if your intention is to go directly to grad school, why not take advantage of the opportunity to engage in an internship?”

Vega said that being an online learner required diligence, organization and setting her priorities in order, while balancing family and work. However, it was worth it.

She is especially grateful for her support system, the key to her success in the program up to this point.

“Surround yourself with positive people and have a strong support system,” she said. “Never forget who helped you make it through the rough times. Thank them. It matters.”

Written by Drexler B. James ‘13

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