Online Criminal Justice gave senior Noah Jackson the confidence he needed to reach his goals

Senior Online Criminal Justice major Noah Jackson has long identified as an introvert. His perfect day is one spent curled up on the couch with a cup of coffee and a romance book, but you might never guess this based on his career. Although Jackson has not yet graduated from his program at Lees-McRae, he already has experience in the courtroom under his belt, something he said he would only have been able to do by pursuing his degree online.

“I wanted to work while I got my bachelor’s degree, and it wouldn’t provide me the flexibility with work to have those classes in person,” Jackson said. That decision─the one he says really drew him to Lees-McRae─has paid off, and Jackson has been working full-time in the criminal justice system since August 2022 when he got an internship at the district attorney’s office for judicial district 24. The district covers Polk, Transylvania, and Henderson counties.

Throughout what was initially supposed to be a four-month internship Jackson dove headfirst into the judicial process. He said with only about nine days of on-the-job experience, he was brought on to help with a first-degree murder trial. During the trial Jackson was tasked with responsibilities that helped support prosecutors in their preparations, such as running files back and forth from the storage room, preparing witnesses for interviews, and taking notes on jury reactions during testimonies.

Jackson worked hard throughout the internship; after all, he had finally found himself inside a real-life episode of “Criminal Minds”—a show he has a special connection to  thanks to years of watching it with his grandparents. This internship felt like the first big step toward achieving his goal of becoming a prosecuting attorney. As it turns out, the internship proved to be even more influential than Jackson realized, and it wasn’t long before the hard work and professionalism he demonstrated in the courtroom opened the next door for him.

“Someone saw me─it was actually a previous professor─and now he’s a captain at the sheriff’s office,” Jackson said. “He saw me during the trial, liked how I handled myself and how I took on responsibility, so he offered me a full-time position and trained me himself.”

This individual was the Polk County Sheriff’s Office evidence technician. Jackson left the district attorney’s office internship about halfway through his initial tenure and began the 500 hours of training required to become an evidence technician himself. By mid-December, Jackson was working fulltime in his new position.

While the role of evidence technician is a civilian position, Jackson said it still plays an important role in the criminal justice system. In this position Jackson is responsible for storing, organizing, and processing data on evidence items, as well as bringing any necessary evidence items to court during a trial. As evidence technician Jackson is only one of three people who has access to the evidence locker.

Not only is his new position exciting because of his long-time interest in and passion for working in the criminal justice system, but Jackson said this opportunity also sets him up for success in his next steps. Following graduation from Lees-McRae Jackson plans to continue with the college’s online Criminal Justice programming and pursue the college’s new online Master of Science in Criminal Justice, while maintaining his job with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

“I have wanted to be a prosecutor forever, but this deepened my desire. Sometimes an internship will do the opposite and clearly show that you don’t want to do that, but it just deepened my drive to want to be a prosecutor one day,” Jackson said. “Then this job presented itself to help pay for my education. As I am going to school to become a prosecutor, I’ll have a job to pay for school, while getting experience in the criminal justice system.”

While his hard work and dedication throughout his internship with the district attorney’s office has already opened doors for him, Jackson traces the confidence, motivation, and knowledge to perform well in the courtroom to his time in the virtual classroom at Lees-McRae. Although he already had a desire to intern for the DA’s office, he said the expertise gained from his classes and the encouraging push from his professors is what helped him make that leap into the professional world.

“Without the Lees-McRae educational curriculum, I would not have been pushed to actually get an internship,” Jackson said. “I’m still an introverted person at heart, but this push to go into this internship exposed me to the field. There was just so much interaction with all these different people: defendants, victims, the state, high position people. It’s unbelievable the amount of confidence I gained from that. Confidence would be the main thing I got from Lees-McRae.”

By Maya JarrellMarch 17, 2023
Online LearningAcademics