Call of Duty: How a Lifetime of Sacrifice and Service Helped a Rio Salado College Grad Realize His Dream
Today, we salute the moms, dads, caregivers and other #RioWaves who have sacrificed their educational plans to serve others— and put in the overtime, whenever they can find the time, to work toward earning a college degree as part-time students.
Sgt. Gregory Wright with the Dallas College Police Department in Dallas, Texas is one such warrior.
Call of Duty
Ever since childhood, earning a college degree was among Wright’s priorities in life, but his sense of duty steered him in a different direction.
“Being raised by a single mother and being the oldest of three siblings, I had to mature faster than most,” said Wright. “I started working at a local grocery chain when I was 14 years old to help my mother out around the house. As I got older and moved up in the company, I did not have time to go to college full time, so I took classes here and there.”
Fast forward to the future. Wright woke up to discover he was a 50-something husband, father, law enforcement officer with sights set on higher-level leadership roles and determined to get his college degree off the bucket list once and for all.
Wright decided to take advantage of the credits he could earn for prior learning and training through Rio Salado’s Credit by Examination program in Law Enforcement Training partnership with the Texas Commission of Law Enforcement (TCOLE).
The partnership program provides a way for law enforcement academy graduates like Wright to earn college credits for prior learning they acquired, demonstrated, or had assessed at TCOLE licensed academies and testing centers. It is one of many Corporate and Government Partnerships Rio Salado has with local and national employers that combine industry-specific training with the college’s high-quality academic component to create customized certificate and degree programs that provide employees with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in their jobs, while earning college credentials.
“I did not take full advantage of the program when I first graduated from the academy,” said Wright. “As my career began to move forward, I knew that I needed more than just a high school diploma to advance my career.”
Academy graduates can earn 40 college credits and a Certificate of Completion in Law Enforcement Training from Rio Salado, which can be applied toward an Associate in Applied Science (A.A.S) Degree Law Enforcement Training, which requires 62-68 credits.
Wright reached out to Rio Salado to help him plan out his coursework to complete the required credits to earn an associate of applied science degree.
Let’s Do This
“The first person I contacted at Rio Salado College was Robyn Sheppard,” said Wright.”I will admit, I thought I would get some answering machine service or a person that would not be interested in what I had to say about wanting to graduate from college, but Robyn was great. I told her about how I wanted to be the first male in my entire family to graduate college and she seemed so excited for me and gave me all the information I needed to get started on my journey. Not only that, but she also continued to follow up with me through email and inquire about how my core classes were going.”
“As I got closer to my dream of becoming a college graduate, I reached out to Robyn to inform her of my status, sadly to say that I found out she was no longer with the program. Then I got the pleasure of meeting Darcy Breault via phone, and to my surprise, found out that she was even more excited than Robyn had been. Every time that I called Darcy about credits, classes that I needed to take, she always greeted me with a happy voice of encouragement and provided me with what I needed without hesitation.”
“The pride and joy we get every day in helping students like Sgt. Wright find pathways to higher learning is the reason I love my job so much,” said Rio Salado’s Partnerships Public Safety Coordinator Darcy Breault, who is celebrating 10 years with Rio Salado. As a former military and veterans academic adviser, Breault also brings a special kind of expertise to help transitioning military and veterans make the most of their benefits and prior learning.
Wright completed the remaining coursework needed to earn a degree at community colleges in Dallas because it was less expensive than Rio Salado's out-of-state tuition. Once he completed that coursework, he transferred those credits to Rio Salado to officially earn his A.A.S Law Enforcement Training degree in the spring of 2021. He plans to pursue a bachelor's degree next.
Wright had every intention of attending Rio Salado’s May 2021 graduation ceremony but had to settle for a virtual ceremony due to COVID-19 precautions. He did not, however, miss out on sharing the moment he became an official grad with his mother.
“I always wanted to graduate from college while my mother was still alive so she could see me walk across the stage and receive my degree,” said Wright. “My mother was so proud when I received my degree in the mail. The look in her eyes when she opened that package and pulled out my degree was priceless.”
Wright has some advice for people who may think college is out of reach for them. “I would recommend anyone who ever thought that graduating from college was an impossible or unattainable dream, to give the staff at Rio Salado College a call, and you will do the unimaginable and realize your dreams. Never give up, no matter how long it takes to achieve your goal! Believe in yourself and believe in your dream."
We hope Sgt. Wright’s story inspires you to continue your educational journey, and to take comfort in knowing we have an army of people eager to help you along the way, until you get to where you want to be. We admire your passion and perseverance, and we are honored to be of service to you.