When Gloryangeliz Lugo-Vazquez was small, she came to view police officers as heroes.
She was born in Puerto Rico, and her neighborhood was no stranger to violence or the presence of police. When she was in second grade, her family relocated to Florida, followed up by moves to Michigan and eventually Binghamton, but she never forgot the men and women in uniform who made such an impression on her young mind.
“As little kids, we always want to become heroes. The real heroes are the police. That’s how I know I wanted to be one,” she said.
Majoring in Criminal Justice – Police at SUNY Broome was a critical step toward her goal. This fall, Gloryangeliz — who will graduate this May – received a boost of confidence from the law enforcement community, when she received a scholarship from the New York State Sheriff’s Institute. Broome County Sheriff David Harder presented the award during a recent press conference.
It can be disorienting to stand in front of a room full of reporters, but it’s also what Gloryangeliz wants to do. She plans to transfer to SUNY Cortland, where she will major in criminology and minor in communications, and from there to the police academy. Her goal as a police officer is to work in communications.
Not too long ago, that might have seemed farfetched. Gloryangeliz was once shy, and sat on the sidelines as opportunities for jobs and internships went to peers with more confidence.
Determined to change her future, she has since focused on leaving her comfort zone – applying for scholarships, and giving presentations whenever the opportunity arises.
“Challenge is what you learn from,” she explained.
Her job in the Business and Professional Studies division requires her to answer the phone – an uncomfortable task at first, but one that slowly allowed her to become more comfortable in communicating with others.
“It’s helped me control my nerves and stay professional,” she said.
She has conquered her fear of speaking in other avenues, too. Through the college’s Alpha Beta Gamma business honor society, she has the opportunity to travel to national conferences and give presentations to a wider audience. She gave a presentation in Georgia last spring. She will do the same at this spring’s conference, this time tackling the concept of comfort zones.
It’s always difficult to leave a space where you feel protected, and where life is largely predictable. Small steps can add up to create lasting change, she advises, such as trying something new for lunch, taking a different road to work, or answering a telephone even when you feel anxious. Once you establish confidence, those larger steps seem only natural.
“I’ve decided that any chance I get, I’ll speak in front of people,” Gloryangeliz said. She’s bilingual, so that adds up to twice the amount of opportunity – as she found out at church, when she translated an entire church service from English to Spanish.
She has practiced leaving her comfort zone at Christian Community Jehovah Nissi, too, where she is an active volunteer – often the first one there and the last to leave, aside from the pastor. In addition to impromptu translation services, she is also in charge of the youth department.
Even before enrolling in SUNY Broome, Gloryangeliz benefited from a head start through Broome-Tioga BOCES’ criminal justice program, which developed both her interest and exposure to the field. She remembers one classroom exercise, in which students had to talk down a man with a bomb on his chest.
“I’m really good with showing empathy toward people and taking control of situations,” she said. “But my professors said always to have a backup plan because you never know what might happen; my backup plan is to go toward 911 operations.”
After graduating high school, SUNY Broome was the logical choice. She had family members who attended the school, and knew of its strong reputation for academics.
In addition to her classes, she is taking advantage of other opportunities in the criminal justice field.
She had a recent job interview with Broome Security, participated in the local Citizens Police Academy and went on a ride-along with police officers a few weeks ago.
She has also honed her leadership skills as the president of the Criminal Justice and Emergency Services Student Association (CJESSA), an active campus club that participates in community service, such as traffic marshalling for local police departments.
None of these things would have happened if Gloryangeliz stayed in the background, in the safe haven of the familiar. She has learned strength and confidence, attributes that will serve her well in the law enforcement profession.
“When you go out into the work environment, you need to leave that comfort zone and learn new things,” she said.