Joseph Euton went to battle with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for his benefits after serving three tours of duty each in the Navy and the Marine Corps.
Euton enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice online program at Northern Kentucky University after winning that fight. He is also completing a Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Leadership and will graduate with both degrees in December 2018. Euton will be the first person in his immediate family to earn a college degree.
"After 12 years, the V.A. finally saw its error," he said. "I'm considered a Project Graduate returning student. A little over a year ago, I started back to finish my degree in the online program. [NKU criminal justice program coordinator] Dr. Alexis Miller told me I was close to a bachelor's degree in my minor, so I might as well let the V.A. pay for it, too. I'm very excited for graduation day."
The Ohio native plans to attend graduate school, and then potentially become a lawyer. He has already taken the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). Euton, who is in his 25th year of working in law enforcement, is an armed security supervisor at Allied Universal in Charlotte.
"The transition going from criminal justice and law enforcement to an attorney is a progressive step for me," said Euton, who hopes to get into Wake Forest for law school.
Even with his extensive law enforcement background, Euton believes the online bachelor's in criminal justice program is extremely beneficial for students in any stage of their career. If Euton doesn't become a lawyer, he is considering working as a probation officer.
"Don't let anyone fool you," he said. "Just because the degree program is online doesn't mean it's easy. I love the flexibility and the fact that you don't have to go to campus and find a parking spot. Not that other students don't roll out and wear sweats to class, but you can also wear whatever you want to the online classes."
Copping a Career
Euton attended a Navy prep school, where Prairie View A&M University recruited him to play football. After serving three years in the military, he attended PVAMU, in Texas, and Vanderbilt University, in Tennessee, as an electrical engineering major. Then in 1990, Euton was called to active duty in the Gulf War, where he became a disabled veteran.
"I was graduating from high school and trying to figure out what to do with myself," he said. "I decided the military was a good step. My parents didn't have the money to send me to school. It was the best option at the time. A lot of other youths should be looking that way, too."
Euton was assigned to work with the Military Police after he returned from the Gulf War at Oakland Naval Hospital Base. He fell in love with law enforcement. After the military, Euton became a certified peace officer and began his new civilian career as a director of security for U.S. Bank Tower in Cincinnati.
Since then, Euton worked for the Scioto County Sheriff's Department and police departments in Dayton, Aberdeen and Arlington Heights, Ohio. His experience working for the Cincinnati Special Police for 12 years gave him insight that would serve him well as an NKU criminal justice student.
"Dr. Miller said that because of my experience during the online discussions, a lot of other students got to benefit from seeing how someone else already did it and how it is in the real world," he said. "Plus, there were things in the correctional field I wasn't privy to. I learned very little about the private sector and the private prisons until that course. I didn't realize it's as big as it is."
Euton relocated to North Carolina and worked at the Mecklenburg County Government Center before landing his current job in late 2016. The flexibility of the online format allows him to always have assignments, tests, readings and notifications at the ready.
"It works out well with my job," he said. "I'm at a BB&T Bank data center as a security armed supervisor, so I'm around computers all day."
Euton is impressed with the quality of the NKU criminal justice program and faculty in his first foray into online higher education.
"The professors are very interactive," he said. "I learned about virtual learning. One teacher set us up in groups so we could do open communication or even communication where you didn't know who it was. There are some great learning tools. We have moved past the time and location gap by virtue of online learning."
Euton and his wife, Nataliia, both have children from previous marriages. Euton has three children -- C.J. (24), Kayla (15) and Dylan (12); and stepchildren – Victor (12) and Anna (9). So, in addition to a demanding full-time job, Euton is able to do schoolwork and make time for his family while setting a positive example for his youngest kids.
"Education is important," he said. "My son, Dylan, just got his report card. Although I'm on the Dean's List for academic excellence, Dylan's report card looked a little bit better than mine. His lowest grade was a 95.3. I didn't even know they taught engineering in the 8th grade. His advanced math is 99.7 He had three 100s. He also just made the commandant of the [Junior Marine Corps] cadets."
Whichever direction Euton takes his career -- litigator or probation officer -- he will soon have the degree to go along with his extensive experience and the satisfaction of knowing he changed the VA's mind about denying him benefits and used them wisely. His goal is to represent veterans against the VA and to help others, like himself, claim benefits that are rightfully theirs.
"I highly recommend the online learning program for individuals in the criminal justice field," he said. "I strongly believe that people who think it's simply open book and easy are in for a challenge in some classes. The bachelor's degree in criminal justice program at NKU is excellent."Learn more about the NKU online BA in Criminal Justice program.
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