“Precision” and “decision” soon come to mind when talking to Trenton Harris, a new alumnus of Georgia State University and the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies. Precision, because the former U.S. Air Force (USAF) military police has taught himself precisely what steps he must take to attain his dream career.
Decision, because once he mapped out those steps, he decided to excel in both his studies and his internship. This dedication led Harris to his new job upon his graduation: as a probation officer with the Department of Community Supervision in the Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit of the DeKalb County, Georgia, Superior Court.
Harris didn’t think he’d go for a college degree when he graduated from a metro Atlanta high school – Tucker High – in 2008.
“I went through four years in the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, and loved it,” he said. “I signed up and took the tests to join the Air Force as soon as I could. I don’t like to waste time. I was young, ready to see the world and knew I didn’t want to work as a fast food server.”
After five years of military service, Harris knew he needed to get a degree. “I found out that, living in the real world, the more education you have, the more choices you have.”
He returned to Atlanta and began classes in criminal justice at Perimeter College, earning an associate’s degree. “I decided to start with the two-year degree because my grades were not the best in high school. When I graduated with honors from Perimeter, I decided to continue at Georgia State.
“With my experience, I know what the job market is looking for, and what the world expects of me,” he said. “Many students get an education before they get any life experience. I’m glad I got that out of the way.”
Harris’s first contact with Stone Mountain’s Department of Community Supervision was as an intern this spring semester. “I found out in the military that I don’t necessarily want to be a cop. I want to help people who are trying to do better succeed, not just throw them into a jail cell. As a probation officer, you have an opportunity to help people in their trajectory in life. That’s why I chose this field.”
During his internship, Harris shadowed a parole supervisor. He’d go to court and listen in on the cases and would sign up the individuals who were sentenced to probation. He also did some field work with the supervisor, checking on those who had been sentenced. “The position is pretty uneventful. You don’t want anything too crazy to happen,” he said.
When a hiring supervisor visited the department, the officer Harris was shadowing introduced them. “He told me to email or call him so they’d be sure to get my application, and when he left, my officer told me I had just been offered the job.”
At a year into his new job, Harris plans to attend night classes at Georgia State’s College of Law. He hopes to eventually move into one of several federal jobs he has had his eyes on. In the meantime, his experiences have led him to a place of wisdom well worth sharing – with a friend, a fellow student or alum, a parolee or even someone just reading his story: “Never give up. Keep working and keep pushing through. Everyone needs some type of education, even if just a certificate for training. You should always be striving to better yourself. You only fail if you quit. Even then, a mistake is only another lesson in life that you can use.”