Kindness and Courage
Criminal Justice grad dedicated to making a positive impact in her community
Growing up in El Salvador, Ana Mejia was used to crime. At that time, El Salvador was one of the most dangerous countries in the world, and violence was part of Ana’s daily life.
“I was living in a really violent community and my daughter and I were regularly threatened by gangs,” she recalls. Her complaints to police went unanswered. One day, gang members drew a gun on Ana and her daughter. “I thought we were going to die that day. That’s when I knew we needed to leave in order to save our lives.”
In 2016, Ana emigrated to the United States with her husband and her 18-month-old daughter. Her husband, Jose Recinos, had been an exchange student at Fox Valley Technical College so they decided to settle in Appleton.
Ana first came to FVTC in 2019 to learn English. She then enrolled in Starting Point 2.0, an FVTC program that empowers young women and provides them with the resources they need to start a career.
After completing that program, her earlier problems working with law enforcement inspired her to pursue a career in Criminal Justice. “Law enforcement in El Salvador is broken,” she explains. “They do not help you when you need it. I decided I wanted to do something to help young women and children.”
El Salvador’s male-dominated National Civil Police force is a militant and commanding presence in the country. “Criminal justice in El Salvador is totally different than it is here,” Ana says. “As a child, I thought all police were angry, showing power and strength. In the United States, we help the community every day. My training has taught me that we can be strong and kind at the same time.”
In December 2022, Ana graduated from FVTC with an associate degree in Criminal Justice, and she is hoping to work with children in the juvenile justice system. “This career offers the chance to positively impact the lives of others, especially children.” Eventually she hopes to become a police officer.
Ana credits FVTC with helping her reach her goals. “FVTC has helped me break through so many barriers, starting with learning English and then helping me believe in myself,” she says.
Coming to the United States has opened up a world of opportunities she never would have had in El Salvador. “Young women in El Salvador have very few opportunities,” she says. “When I first moved here, I started to think like that. But then when I started at FVTC, they changed my mind. They told me I can do whatever I want, and now I believe that.”
And she’s a role model for her two children: her eight-year-old daughter whom she brought to the U.S. for a brighter future, as well as a four-year-old son. “My kids are proud of me; they call me their hero,” says Ana. “My daughter tells me she wants to be like me when she grows up.”
Career Opportunities in Criminal Justice
- Corrections Officer
- DNR Warden
- Probation & Parole Officer
- Public Safety Dispatcher
- Police Officer