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Criminal Justice major lets potential, not past, define him

Most kids dream about what they want to be when they grow up, but few follow through to turn that dream into a reality. Paul Overturf, a junior Criminal Justice major, has wanted a career in law enforcement since he was in first grade. He recalls a moment of distress as a young boy when a police officer made him feel safe. From then on, Mr. Overturf vowed that he would make it his mission to help others feel the same sense of protection.

Growing up, Overturf was faced with great adversity at home and at school, and forced to overcome abuse and other obstacles not typical for an average youth. When he was 19 years old, Overturf found hope through the Transitional Independent Living Program (TILP), offered by Chautauqua Opportunities, Inc. TILP has “Safe Place” homes that allow displaced youth between 16 and 21 years old to live, free of charge, on the condition that they attend school full-time, work full-time, or work part-time with added volunteer hours. Overturf became a resident of the house and later obtained an internship as a resident assistant, where he was responsible for overseeing residents.

His success in the TILP program led Overturf to be recently nominated and chosen out of a large pool of applicants, each of whom had overcome struggles, for the Personal Achievement Award.It is given by the New York State Community Action Agency to an individual who has achieved significant personal accomplishments.

When Overturf graduated from Fredonia High School in 2012, he was determined to continue his education. Once the time came to apply for college, Fredonia was on the top of his list. With the help of the campus’ Educational Development Program, he was able to obtain the educational and financial support necessary to be a full-time student. His dream of law enforcement still strong, he planned to attend the police academy but wanted to expand his knowledge and try different areas of study. He explored Biology and Sociology — earning Dean’s List recognition in the process — but he’s ended up where he always knew he belonged: Criminal Justice.

Overturf has also been a work-study employee of the Alumni Affairs Office since his freshman year. Alumni Affairs Director Patricia Feraldi has asked him to return to the office every semester.

“Paul is a fair-minded, conscientious, and dependable man with a great heart,” says Feraldi. “I am confident that he is going to make an outstanding law enforcement officer.”

Overturf is very involved on campus. He is a student Ambassador, a member of the review board for the Office of Judicial Affairs and holds an internship with University Police. He is also part of the Advanced Leadership Development Program, a minor that allows students to learn how to be an effective leader and make a positive impact on the community.

During high school and college, Overturf has been fortunate to gain multiple mentors, including University Police Chief Ann Burns, who has encouraged him to pursue his dreams and continuously helps to guide him.

“He is just so remarkable, especially for someone who has been through what he has been through,” expressed Burns. “He is so quick to help people and expects nothing in return.”

Overturf plans to complete his undergraduate degree and eventually take the state trooper exam. If he gets accepted to the New York State Police Academy, he is determined to work hard and achieve his life-long dream of becoming a state trooper.

“You have to rise above it. You have to get out there and do something,” Overturf says of his situation. “Fredonia has given me the foundation I needed to help myself and my career.”

posted @ Tuesday, September 02, 2014 7:15 PM by Nick Gunner

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