ATLANTA—Kierra Kelly (B.S. in Criminal Justice ’21) of Social Circle, Georgia, spent three years working towards a health sciences degree at Piedmont College, but she could not find a passion for the career it promised.
A friend majoring in criminal justice and criminology at Piedmont urged her to try that program. So, Kelly took some prerequisites at Georgia State University Perimeter College in Newton, transitioned to the Atlanta campus and was hooked.
“Professor Michael Shapiro taught one of my first courses,” she said. “He talked about ethical issues in policing, the evolution of and changes in. In another class he taught us legal concerns regarding policing, Miranda rights, court cases, etc. He took us deeper into corrections and ethical issues. I am an academic nut and was 100 percent into the learning. I loved it!”
With graduation approaching, Kelly is now applying for Officer Candidate School with the Marines. She’d like to eventually enter into federal law enforcement.
“Once I hit fall semester 2020, I decided I wanted to do this as a career, but I wasn’t sure in what capacity,” she said. “I thoroughly enjoy learning the laws behind law enforcement and how officers can apply these laws and educate the citizens they serve. Many don’t know their amendment rights like they should. I want to set the example of how officers should be.”
Kelly’s internship with the Cold Case unit at the Walton County Sheriff’s office helped her settle her career question. She interned under the direction of investigator Michael Rising, a former FBI agent and retired Marine Corps captain.
“Investigator Rising trained us to have more of an FBI mindset when tackling cold cases. I worked on a missing person and murder case. After that experience, I decided the way to go is investigative or detective at the federal level.”
Kelly feels Georgia State is the best choice she could have made. “My friends at Piedmont and the University of Georgia have told me they wish they were here because of how the program is set up. This program is top-notch, in my opinion.”
She’s also ready to make an impact. “On the internet, people who advocate for people’s rights and being treated fairly in the court system are labeled social justice warriors. Maybe in the future I’ll call myself that. I will work within the criminal justice system to stand up for people who are wronged in life.”