Faith & Service

Caring for those who care for us

By Tobi Walsh Laukaitis, October 31, 2019

The life of a first responder revolves around two things: sacrifice and service. At Liberty University, the important role that these public servants play in our communities does not go unnoticed. 

Liberty provides a special discount of 25 percent off tuition for eligible police officers, paramedics, firefighters, and other first responders as a “thank you” for taking care of our communities. Even with their demanding work schedules, Liberty’s flexible and affordable online education program is helping them achieve their academic and career goals.

A Christian worldview

In Chambersburg, Pa., Police Chief Roland Camacho noticed an interesting pattern among his 34 officers: several attended or were enrolled at Liberty. 

“When I became chief in 2016, I pushed for the department to really ‘up’ the education,” he said. “It was one of my mandates when I came, but I didn’t specify where these guys could take classes. They all chose Liberty, and a lot of it has to do with Detective Sgt. Jon Greenawalt.”

Chambersburg (Pa.) Police Department

Greenawalt decided he wanted to pursue a bachelor’s degree to help gain more credibility when testifying on the stand. His wife encouraged him to apply to Liberty after she completed her master’s degree from Liberty’s online program.

“When I started my classes, I became hooked on the philosophy of the school,” Greenawalt said. “I wanted more from my education. Liberty teaches you how to take your chosen vocation, which for me is law enforcement, and connect it to a Christian worldview.”

Greenawalt completed his degree in 2014 and went on to earn his master’s in criminal justice and public administration from Liberty in 2016.

“I learned a lot about administrating in a criminal justice environment,” he said. “Liberty gives you the basic background, and I was able to couple that with the training I’ve received from the department. But a lot it I had already learned because of my training at Liberty.”

It wasn’t long before he was encouraging others in his department to consider Liberty, noting the school’s significant discounts for first responders and veterans.

Chief Camacho was one of them. After over 20 years in law enforcement, Camacho wanted to earn his master’s degree.

“Sgt. Greenawalt was very convincing about Liberty and why I should go there,” Camacho said. “I got accepted, and it was a great choice.”

Camacho was equally impressed with the online program and completed his master’s in criminal justice in July.

“As I was developing my leadership skills, I really fell in love with the idea of servant leadership and I got that from the classes and having to find Scripture that sort of meshes with what you’re responding to and what you’re writing about,” Camacho said.

He added that his courses helped him develop his writing and led him to publish an article on emotional intelligence in a national publication.

“I would have never had the confidence to do that had it not been for the writing in my courses and getting good feedback from the instructors,” he said.

Flexible format

Although Maurice “Moe” Bruce has been in the field of fire and rescue since 1987, he felt compelled to pursue a bachelor’s degree as he began to reach retirement age for the Lynchburg (Va.) Fire Department. After moving to Lynchburg in the early 1990s, Bruce now works out of Fire Station 2 in downtown Lynchburg.

Maurice “Moe” Bruce, Lynchburg Fire Department

“I felt like it was a good opportunity,” Bruce said. “With the first responder discount and Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant (VTAG), Liberty made it affordable, and I wanted to take advantage of a way I could market myself after I retired.”

Bruce, who is currently earning his B.S. in Fire Administration, said it was an easy decision to choose Liberty, especially with the convenience of the online program.

“I have loved the program so far at Liberty,” he said. “It offers flexibility to help me complete my assignments, and I’ve even been able to work on assignments while at work.”

Even though Bruce is local to Lynchburg and Liberty’s main campus, his online courses have allowed him to connect with other fire professionals from around the country. 

“We get to hear how other localities handle different situations and react, which is interesting,” he said.

His degree program has even allowed him to branch out and dabble in new interests.

“Right now, my favorite class is one I’m taking on social media,” Bruce said. “Most of the students are younger, and I’m a little bit more old-school, but it’s been great to hear from their perspectives.”

Career advancement

As Jeffrey Sczerzen began charting his career path, he realized that he was missing something: a degree.

“I realized that if I wanted to move up the ranks and be better marketable for promotions, then I would need to have a bachelor’s degree,” Sczerzen said.

A full-time firefighter based out of Greendale, Wis., a suburban area outside of Milwaukee, Sczerzen started to research college programs that could work with his busy schedule.

“The problem I kept running into was that a lot of these degree programs weren’t accredited,” he said. 

That was until he came across Liberty’s fully accredited online program, where he could earn a B.S. in Fire Administration.

“I knew that if I wanted a bigger-ranking job, I was going to need a program like Liberty’s,” Sczerzen said. “One of the guys at work recommended Liberty, and it came down to price point.”

Sczerzen said choosing Liberty was a “no-brainer.” He quickly received information, and an academic advisor walked him through the process, answering all his questions.

“The fire administration program really teaches you things that are specific to our industry,” he said. “You can apply what you’re learning to real-life situations. You are able to learn things like policy through the Helms School of Government and connect with other professionals around the country.”

Another major reason Sczerzen decided to continue his education was to help better train younger firefighters.

“There have been mistakes made over the years that we have had to learn from,” he said. “I wanted to have the best knowledge to pass on to the next generation so they have good habits moving forward.”

>>EXPLORE YOUR OPTIONS: A wide variety of associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs are helping first responders advance in their careers or start a new vocation. Apply online at Liberty.edu/Online or call (800) 424-9595 (undergraduate) and (800) 424-9596 (graduate/doctoral).


DID YOU KNOW?

Liberty’s First Responder Discount of 25 percent off tuition is open to students who are currently (or within the last five years) employed, volunteering full time, or retired from areas of law enforcement, emergency services, fire safety and rescue work, TSA, and Civil Air Patrol. The discount can be combined with Liberty’s military benefit, leading to over 50 percent savings. The discount can also be stacked with Liberty’s corporate affiliate discount of 15 percent for a 40 percent savings. The program considers transfer credits from a police academy as well as work experience and Continuing Education certificates.

Visit Liberty.edu/Online/Scholarships for a full list of eligibility requirements. 

 

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