MARIETTA—Washington State Community College (WSCC) Student of the Month Michelle VanWay is fulfilling a lifelong dream of a career in law enforcement. While life events delayed the 33-year-old’s pursuit of a degree, they ultimately gave her the experience that will serve her well in her chosen profession.
VanWay is a single mom of two who spent a decade working in medical billing. While the job paid the bills, it gave her no enjoyment. It was simply the work she did in lieu of what she really wanted to do—become a police officer. Those aspirations were quelled because her then-husband had gotten involved in drugs and she knew she couldn’t hold one set of standards in the community and a different set at home. “You can’t arrest your husband every night when you get home,” she confessed. So, she tucked her dream away with the hope that it was only a temporary delay.
In 2020, following her divorce and subsequent fatal overdose of her ex-husband, VanWay decided it was time to reclaim her dream and she enrolled at WSCC in the criminal justice (CJ) program. Having personally experienced how drugs negatively impacted her family, she knew the combination of the degree and experience could benefit others in similar situations. “I’ve dealt with the person and the disease, so I can see them as a person and not their drug addiction,” described VanWay.
In the Fall of 2021, she graduated with her associate degree in criminal justice and began working at Marietta Municipal Court Adult Probation. In this role, “I was able to connect more with defendants who had a substance abuse problem because of what I’ve dealt with in my past,” VanWay explained. That’s when she realized she could have a greater impact on the community if she became a police officer and she enrolled in WSCC’s Peace Officer Basic Academy (POBA). In January 2023, she will graduate with her second associate degree, an Associate of Applied Science in Criminal Justice POBA. Her overall goal is to become a Deputy Sheriff and plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree.
VanWay said that while she always dreamed of going to college to pursue her dream of working in law enforcement, the decision was still a challenge. “I spent many years making excuses why I could not go back to school. WSCC made it possible for me to be a mother and work while still pursuing my career.”
She added advice for others contemplating college, but are still hesitant. “I have always been a believer in, if there is a will, there is a way. I was 30 years old when I started back to school. I’m proof that it is never too late to pursue your hopes and dreams.”